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The price of undue restraint in war

The price of undue restraint in war is always paid in the blood of your own soldiers. The Moqtada al-Sadr’s ‘Mahdi Army’ has previously given the US/UK forces all the justification it ever needed to crush them militarily and put Sadr’s head on a pike for all to see. He took up arm against the British and Americans, his people killed allied troops and yet rather than wipe out his supporters when they were cornered in Najaf, crushing his organisation once and for all and removing him from the political equation by putting a bullet in his head, he was allowed to make a deal , rejoin the political process and rebuild his armed strength.

And now the price for that idiotic restraint is being paid. It was demonstrated when Sadr’s militia were allowed to just walk away free at Najaf after making a few empty promises to lay down their arms in order to end the fighting, that the consequences of taking on the allies in Iraq are not military annihilation with no possibility of being accepted as a legitimate political figure.

On the contrary in fact, so not surprisingly Iraq’s warlords see little downside to strengthening their credentials with nationalist and Islamist elements by taking intermittent swipes at allied troops in the knowledge they can always mend fences later of the US or UK looks like they are putting them under serious military pressure or if they corner more of your people than you can afford to just write off.

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38 comments to The price of undue restraint in war

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Well, the suicidal left in the US would scream bloody murder(literally), and you can be sure the MSM would play up the bloodthirsty nature of the US military if they cracked down. And what then? It’s a political war of wills, and the margins are uncomfortably close.

    It’s hard to fight a war with one hand tied behind your back. If the fault for undue restraint is to be laid at anybody’s feet, it would be on the anti-war left in the US and the UK.

    Iran is another thorn. I suspect Bush will not do anything this time. The left will crow long and loudly about how they ‘won’, but when a nuke blows up in their faces, they’d be the first to fling accusations of incompetence at the ‘bloodthirsty’ neo-cons.

    Wait and see.

    TWG

  • Nick M

    I couldn’t agree with you more Perry. We have fought this war as though we were fighting an honourable enemy, an enemy we could make deals with and one that might respect our restraint. It has been abundantly clear for longer than I have graced this planet that in the Middle East this gets you nowhere. All they respect is naked power and aggression.

    I have watched in dismay as British squaddies have been hauled over the coals for beating Iraqi teens that were throwing stones at them. If I had a load of chavs throwing stones at me every day, I’d want to kick seven shades out of them too. I doubt anyone could show the restraint that UK forces have been expected, on pain of exemplary court-martial to show…

    I am awe-struck when the BBC (amongst others) talks about how the Army “ought to use mimimum force”. This is a concept completely antithetical to any military doctrine of the last three thousand years. Maximum force, concentrated, localised and over as short a time-scale as possible is the only solution.

    And still, no atrocity seems too bad for our PBI not to be excoriated for doing the only militarily correct thing, doing what they were trained for, what they’re paid for… It has even been suggested that they should have been more softly-softly following the Lynx getting downed… Good God! There was a riot, people were stoning the bodies of British soldiers in the wreckage (and probably the Iraqi firemen dealing with the blaze), molotov cocktails had ignited on British vehicles and the British Army was supposed to show “restraint”.

    There will probably be some attempt to negotiate with Moqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army&trade over this. He’ll probably end up going away and vowing to be a good boy and we’ll say everything is hunky-dory till the next time…

    What ought to happen is some very loud stomping, a few of Mr al Sadr’s cronies getting very publically executed while grovelling in the dust and their bodies incinerated contra-Sharia. Then we’ll see quite how brave these jihadis aren’t.

    And if it turns out that Mahmoud Armageddon’s Iran is implicated in any of this (and a fiver says they are) we ought to nail his dick to a see-saw.

  • The conservative argument is that all disorder is caused by weakness. Therefore, the way to end disorder and restore “freedom” is to increase strength which bears a strong resemblance to tyranny.

    The US and UK face two options in Iraq:

    1. Go ahead and turn Iraq into rubble yielding a Pyrrhic victory.

    2. Leave.

  • Nick M

    Charlie,

    Option 1 Looks OK to me, if we can ensure that the oil still flows and that the battle acts like a lightbulb to the moths of jihad. I’d much rather we were fighting them in Fallujah than in Chicago or Manchester.

    Like you I’m very sceptical of the (obviously) preferred option 3 – a pleasant peaceful, productive and democratic Iraq emerging at the end of this mess. The only way this could happen is if the Iraqi constitution was entirely secular and that isn’t likely to happen. What a shame.

  • The neocon error is thinking that freedom is something that can be imposed. It can’t.

    There was a reason Saddam Hussein came to power, and it is called “consent of the governed.” Like it or not, Saddam was Iraq’s version of a moderate.

    The UK and the US would have been better off to have never invaded Iraq. As it stands, it is a colossal failure. Only someone with their head buried in the sand can fail to see this.

  • I suspect§ Moqtada al Sadr’s Bharmhi Army (frowns, holds pointed finger in air and stares off to middle distance) was somewhat involved in the rabble-rousing and deaths yesterday.

    I could not believe that his goat’s forces were not obliterated in Najaf. There should have been no negotiation. This chap certainly does not understand or respect anything other than obedience, regardess of if he is getting it or giving it.

    § with no proof whatsoever

  • Matra

    The U.S. and U.K. aren’t using maximum force because: a) they are there to build a new Arab Muslim democratic society not conquer an enemy; and b) neither country has vital interests in Iraq worth such an escalation. Obviously it was idiotic to invade in the first place. Invading another society to remake it indicates either madness or a lack of understanding of human nature. If Arab Muslims are such a problem immigration control makes more sense than using government coercion abroad to remake societies with habits that are thousands of years old.

    Since I wasn’t reading this blog when the war was being debated I’d be curious to know why so many libertarians here supported it. Elective war for the purpose of social engineering strikes me as being about as statist as you can get.

  • Gordon

    Charlie
    Democracy.
    It was imposed on the Germans and the Japanese.
    What do you think the allied occupation forces would have done in the event of an armed revolt by some faction in those two countries after the end of “major combat” in WW2?

  • Ted

    If we decide to fight a war with our arms tied behind our backs, we are going to lose a lot more people over a longer period of time than necessary. The craven weakness of the major powers continues to suprise.

    We’re over there – we decided to get involved – the local savages need to understand that any trouble will be met with lethal force and unmarked graves. That message will be respected by the local elders, not some diluted BBC version of warfare.

    Let’s get on with it or get out. Latter option is not preferred as the vast majority of Iraqis seem to me to be highly intelligent, courageous poeple who deserve our support.

  • Eric Sivula

    Charlie,

    In exactly what sense is a coup d’etat by a fascist party the “consent of the governed”?

    Even the Beeb says that Saddam was elected into the leadership of the Ba’athist Party, which staged a successful coup in 1968.

    When again did the Iraqis vote for a bloody and violent overthrow of their existing, unelected government?

  • Mike Lorrey

    Charlie sez: “1. Go ahead and turn Iraq into rubble yielding a Pyrrhic victory.

    2. Leave”

    Charlie, I don’t know where you got your definition of “Pyrrhic Victory”, but turning your enemies homeland to rubble is not it. A Pyrrhic Victory is what happens when you lose more men than the other guy but still win in spite of your lack of concern for your own losses.

    In the present conflict, we’ve lost somewhere south of 2,500 men. We’ve killed at least ten to as much as forty times as many enemy. This is the furthest thing from Pyrrhic our forces have ever experienced in any war (excepting possibly several British losses in our War of Independence). Of course, I’m not surprised to hear such defeatism from the traitor left, but I expected better here.

  • There was a reason Saddam Hussein came to power, and it is called “consent of the governed.” Like it or not, Saddam was Iraq’s version of a moderate.

    Moderate, eh? Preposterous. Tell that to the people of Halabja.

  • Jacob

    “There was a reason Saddam Hussein came to power, and it is called “consent of the governed.””

    Correct.
    Those who did not consent were fed into an industrial shredder. Saddam’s democracy style, approved by the Left in the West.
    Same as Stalin’s democracy, also approved by the left. You can’t blame them of inconsistency.

  • Mike Lorrey

    Given that Baathism is merely Stalinism with a dash of Arab Nationalism, it is no surprise that the western left is back on the apologia bandwagon. With moonbats like Ramsey Clark, Lynne Stewart, John Parker, joined by Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and the rest of the nutters, it isn’t surprising that they couldn’t be bothered by genocide by arabs in the Sudan (Parker goes so far as calling it a fake story put out by the administration).

    It is unfortunate, though, that so many libertarians get sucked into this agitprop as a natural consequence of listening to anything that affirms their hate of their own government.

  • nic

    There is shred of truth to the idea that the Iraqi people put up with Baathism. But to call it consent is stupid. It bears no resemblance to any idea of individual rights.

    You could on Hobbesian grounds say that Saddam was “justified” by the fact that the alternative was an even nastier anarchy. In other words, people allowed Saddam to rule because even a successful resistance could not guarantee an improvement.

    I suppose somewhere from that, we might derive an idea that it is best not jump straight to freedom, but to encourage it to evolve naturally in societies that can only exist securely in a tyranny. If we accept that individual rights are synthetic and the product of an already highly developed civil society.

  • This is the only real complaint from those of us who have supported the war from the beginning; it hasn’t been fought as ruthlessly and brutally as it should have been against such human debris.

  • Richard Thomas

    Cynicus: Some of us who did not support the war feel the same way.

    In the words of the bard, “If you’re gonna do it, do it right – right”.

    Rich

  • Matra asked:

    Since I wasn’t reading this blog when the war was being debated I’d be curious to know why so many libertarians here supported it. Elective war for the purpose of social engineering strikes me as being about as statist as you can get.

    The character of this site was rather different back then. Both posters and commentors were pushing a fantasy about liberating Iraq, and constantly professing their deep concern for the well-being of the Iraqi people. The current crop of neo-Nazi commentors showed up much later.

  • It is unfortunate, though, that so many libertarians get sucked into this agitprop as a natural consequence of listening to anything that affirms their hate of their own government.

    Amen to that.

    It is rarely wrong to depose tyrants.

  • The character of this site was rather different back then. Both posters and commentors were pushing a fantasy about liberating Iraq, and constantly professing their deep concern for the well-being of the Iraqi people. The current crop of neo-Nazi commentors showed up much later.

    Whereas of course those who opposed the military action and supported leaving Saddam Hussain in power, a man who is an Arab Nazi by any reasonable definition, could not possibly be accused of being neo-Nazis, right?

    But then perhaps Ken subscribes to some notion that to support overthrowing a Nazi make you a Nazi, or something like that.

    Scratch the surface of many of the ‘antis’ and you find notions along the lines I used to hear to justify not opposing apartheid… stuff like “there are all just ignorant darkies [insert ‘ignorant arabs’ to update] and who are we to say they are not happier under this regime?”

  • The Realist

    Matra– You have to remember that the kind of libertarian found here maintains that the whole world should be immediately remade in the image of the USA (not the actual, statist USA of Bush but some platonic dream of 1776 plus privately owned spaceships), and that any foreigner who claims not to want that is either lying or too backward to understand his own best interests.

    Marxists’ or Muslims’ visions of how the earth could be brought under one system are measured and cautious compared with the miraculous domino effects the neocons and their libertarian running dogs imagine might happen… if only the Evil Ones were blasted off the face of the planet.

    The more ludicrous their prescriptions appear in the light of reality, the more bloodthirsty they become in their demands for Iraqis to be bullied, bombed and butchered into ‘freedom’. How dare these impertinent dogs resist the precious gifts of their liberators?

  • I am of the opinion that the leadership of a country is a direct reflection of the majority of the people living in that country. In the case of Saddam and the aftermath of his overthrow, we see that Iraq is a divided and violent society with no respect for human rights. Saddam was merely the cork holding it in by his violent tyranny.

  • mike

    “I am of the opinion that the leadership of a country is a direct reflection of the majority of the people living in that country.”

    Charlie – would you care to explain how you arrived at that bizzare opinion?

    The majority of Iraqis are Shiite whereas the chief beneficiaries of Saddam’s bastard regime were the minority Sunnis. How then can you claim Saddam’s regime reflected the ‘majority’ of the people living in Iraq?

  • mike

    “But then perhaps Ken subscribes to some notion that to support overthrowing a Nazi make you a Nazi, or something like that.”

    Of course! The word ‘Nazi’ just means ‘violent person’ nowadays – the uncontracted form of National Socialist having been quietly obliterated from ‘public consciousness’ without acknowledgement.

    Back on topic, the price of undue restraint is of course being paid not just in Iraq, but in situations closer to home. Violent crime in the UK: groups of 20 or so youths beating a middle-aged man to within an inch of his life for telling them to clear off his property – this sort of thing receives miniscule sentances of 18 months reduced to 6 nowadays.
    And of course self-defence with firearms is a bit of a legal risk.

    How can the use of maximum deadly force to deter an enemy abroad be expected of a State that is too limp-wristed to use maximum legal force to deter violent crime at home?

  • Sandy P

    Sistani’s handling it his way.

  • Pete_London

    Marxists’ or Muslims’ visions of how the earth could be brought under one system are measured and cautious compared with the miraculous domino effects the neocons and their libertarian running dogs imagine might happen… if only the Evil Ones were blasted off the face of the planet.

    Oops, wrong site. I thought I’d walked into Samizdata. I’ll try again later.

  • Julian Taylor

    There was a reason Saddam Hussein came to power, and it is called “consent of the governed.” Like it or not, Saddam was Iraq’s version of a moderate.

    Sorry to harp on re that comment but its just not at all factually accurate. There hasn’t been a real election in Iraq (Saddam used to hold mock elections in the belief it would placate the West) since well before the 1950’s. Hussein came to power following a coup, led by General Ahmed al-Bakr in 1968 – as the party’s official torturer and interrogater – and stayed there until deposed by the USA and UK. He most certainly was never regarded as a ‘moderate’ by any faction, the Iranians hated him (the Iran-Iraq War should be a hint there), the Palestinians loved him simply because he was actually prepared to acknowledge their existence, but that was just about all. It was remarked upon in 1990 how odd it was that so many Arab states were so quick to join in the UN coalition against Iraq.

    As for his tyranny, you might well be right, that it was indeed his style of nastier-than-thou rule that kept the rest of Iraq in check, but it is wrong to label a country as a “violent society with no respect for human rights” based upon the actions of criminal insurgents with no regard whatsoever for others’ lives. I am quite sure that 99% of Iraqis do not get out of bed in the morning wondering how many Americans they will be able to kill that day.

    Regarding the ‘should we stay ot should we go’ question, quite simply we can’t go until the job is done. To run away from Iraq will send the very worst message to the rest of the Arab world and we really do not need to be seen by them as spineless nations of acquiescence and submission. A war walked away from in Baghdad will undoubtedly continue to be fought on the streets on London or New York.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    There was a reason Saddam Hussein came to power, and it is called “consent of the governed.” Like it or not, Saddam was Iraq’s version of a moderate.

    What?. The idea that Saddam came to power with the consent of the majority of Iraqis is some sort of joke. He was backed by the Sunni section of the population, a minority in Iraq. As Julian, Perry and others have pointed out, it is hardly the sign of a moderate to practice mass murder on Kurds, Marsh Arabs, Shiites; invade neighbouring states (Kuwait, Iran) without provocation or just cause, fire missiles at Israel, consort and finance terror groups…….

    The best argument for non-interventionist foreign policy is the Hayekian one: there is a “fatal conceit” in imagining that one can create a new society, and that applies as much to foreign adventures as it does to domestic welfare policy. The same cautionary points apply. But that is an argument based on prudence, nothing more.

  • The Dude

    Germany and Japan are singulary awful examples of transplanted democracy. Germany was previously a democracy with the requisite historical underpinnings of western-style liberalism to allow democracy to take hold.

    From a cultural perspective, having lived in the middle east for 15 years (back in the 80’s/early 90’s), culturally it is about where the west was 6-800 years ago. It’s dark ages began with the Islamic civil war which lead to Wahhabism being the dominant form of the religion and has yet to emerge from it. 100 years ago it was just a bunch of tribes fighting eachother. Now its a bunch of rich tribes fighting eachother (and everyone else) with modern weapons. This is not a good cultural base for transplanting democracy, it was never going to work and hasn’t.

    If Iraq was deemed a threat the choices were twofold:-

    1. Bury head in sand
    2. Bomb it back to the stone age (otherwise known as pulling a Julius Caeser in Gaul)

    3. Try and transplant a democracy; was never a workable solution.

    Now all you have is a situation where predictable terror my a murdering bastard has been replaced unpredictable terror by many murdering bastards. Count me singularly unimpressed.

  • Sandy P

    So says The Realist from behind the computer.

    Glad you’re able to afford one.

  • Julian Taylor

    The Realist scribed:

    Marxists’ or Muslims’ visions of how the earth could be brought under one system are measured and cautious compared with the miraculous domino effects the neocons and their libertarian running dogs imagine might happen …

    If you don’t mind I would quite like to use that comment on my own web log. I have a mild notion that any right of the individual isn’t something that is too much at the forefront of either neo-Islamism or neo-Marxist idealogy, while the doctrine of free will and the power of self-determination is exactly what defines Libertarianism.

  • Jacob

    “This is not a good cultural base for transplanting democracy, it was never going to work and hasn’t. ”

    Some people have awful powers of prophecy, and can tell you what is going to work and what “is never going to work”.

    Many countries, most of them as a matter of fact, which never had democracy before, got it, slowly, painfully, with ups and downs and many years of struggle, but got it in the end. That’s what happened for example in Turkey (starting in 1922), in India, in South Korea, etc. Even In Italy or France (in the past). It’s a process that takes decades or centuries, but it happens.

    I don’t expect Iraq to be a normal western style democracy within a couple of years. But this does not mean “it is never going to work”. It will take maybe a couple of decades, maybe a couple of centuries. The US intervention has given thigs a shove and a push, and maybe initiated or hastened a change for the better.

  • Mike Lorrey

    “Since I wasn’t reading this blog when the war was being debated I’d be curious to know why so many libertarians here supported it. Elective war for the purpose of social engineering strikes me as being about as statist as you can get.”

    I wasn’t aware that freeing people was now considered “social engineering”. SE is reserved for statists intent on taking liberties away from people “for their own good”, “because they can’t handle freedom”, etc. Being a libertarian implies a belief in liberty, and in liberating those who are in chains.

    I understand that the anarcho-socialists keep trying to insist that the term belongs to them and them alone, and that they consider Baathists and other social-fascists as merely embarrasing uncles who are to be apologized for, but such delusion doesn’t make one in any way right in present society. However, I seem to recall they had no trouble with wars of liberation effected by the radical left around the world throughout the 20th century, so it is apparently more important who runs the revolution.

    And while Randites also try to take the “I am an island” schtick to justify their “screw you, I’ve got mine” attitude, the sad fact is that we are not all born equal: some are born in liberty, others are not, but objectively speaking, there is no Reason(tm) why we all don’t have a Natural Right to all live in freedom.

    As a libertarian, I will never regard freeing another from their chains, either chains of law or chains of perception, as ‘social engineering’.

  • Samsung

    Forget about Fatboy Sadr and Iranian President Abu Mud-Bob Dinner-Jacket for a moment, and go look at look this small candid-camera style .wmv movie of two veiled Muslim women eating spaghetti. This is so surreal it just has to be shared out amongst those who believe in sexual equality and the values of Western Civilization. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    (Link)

    http://www.france-echos.com/actualite.php?cle=9053

  • Julius Foxus

    Great… Having spammed djihadwatch.com’s comments pretending to be on the same side (of liberty), the antiamerican and antisemite French natinalists of france-echos are now having a go at Samizdata.

    Truly, this site is getting all sorts of neo-nazis these days…

  • Nick M

    Samsung,
    A truly amusing video. And “Abu Mud-Bob Dinner-Jacket” amuses too. I’d taken to calling him “Mahmoud Armageddon”.

  • Nick M

    Samsung,
    This will amuse:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8602483019158148765&q=muslim+rave
    God knows how they did it, or fatwas are hovering over tem now…

    BTW, this vid has been posted on Samizdata before. Alas, I don’t recall who I should hat-tip…

  • Samsung

    Nick M, just a hat-tip and a thanks for the link to the Iranian disco clip. I think the old bald guy with the beard was the DJ. He gives a whole new meaning to the word “slap head”. These whackos are proper crazy. I emailed the movie link out to several friends.