Axis of appeasement

Axis of appeasement
: Tom Friedman says today:

The new Spanish government’s decision to respond to the attack by Al Qaeda by going ahead with plans to pull its troops from Iraq constitutes the most dangerous moment we’ve faced since 9/11. It’s what happens when the Axis of Evil intersects with the Axis of Appeasement and the Axis of Incompetence.

It’s a good and tough column — tough not just on the Spanish for running away from democracy in Iraq but also tough on us for not sending more troops to Iraq to assure and protect the growth of democracy.

  • miguel

    no-one is running away from democracy!
    It’s news to me that a huge military presence on the streets stands for democracy.
    why do you want to send more troops to Iraq when any of those would be happy to return back home to stay with their families. why don’t you just volunteer to “secure democracy” in Iraq instead of calling for others to go!

  • John Irving

    Speaking as a veteran, miguel, you have no idea what you are talking about.

  • TWP
  • Doctor Slack

    Friedman is right on what has to be done to salvage Iraq from disaster and civil war — but then that’s always been the gross dilemma of the liberal hawk: they were always under the illusion that Bush was planning their war, and not his war.
    He’s also still trying to link Iraq and al-Qaeda, and still letting what al-Qaeda might think determine his stance on Western policy. “Appeasement”? Look in the mirror, Tom. If Spain thinks they can fight al-Qaeda more effectively by focussing closer to home, that’s their business.
    Moreover, Spain is not withdrawing unconditionally from Iraq. They’re withdrawing from the Bush-led mission in Iraq, and why shouldn’t they? It’s a mess, as Friedman himself knows.

  • Michael Sweeney

    As big of a mess it may be, it doesn’t look like Spain will be using the troops to protect themselves, it looks like they’re caving to the demands of madmen.

  • Doctor Slack

    Out of curiosity, since WWII analogies are in vogue: in moving troops and reallocating resources, what was the best way for the allies to defeat Hitler? To worry about what was best for them, or to worry endlessly about what their enemy might think of them?

  • While enthusiastic, committed, and not averse to the use of force in the War on Terror, I’ve always been a skeptic on the neocon plan for Iraq. That having been said, I’m not entirely in agreement with Mr. Friedman on the security situation there. I don’t believe that it’s the result of incompetence on the part of the Bush administration or trying to do it on the cheap. I believe there is a conflict of goals. It’s simply not possible to make Iraq as secure as it was under Saddam without becoming Saddam. And that would fly in the face of what we’re trying to achieve there.
    The Iraqis absolutely have to take some ownership of their own security. And I mean from the bottom-up. If the Iraqis wait for the Coalition, or the Governing Council or the newly constituted Iraqi police force to establish security, it’s just not going to happen without a return to dictatorship. But when the little old lady in the poor section of Baghdad reports the strange goings-on she saw next door to the Americans or the shopkeeper in Fallujah reports that his nephew brought home bomb-making equipment to the Iraqi police force, there’s a chance for both democracy and security. Until then they can have democracy or they can have security and dictatorship.

  • Let me understand this…
    The Bush administration goes to the trouble of putting together a coalition and then is criticized for the coalition not being big enough…
    …then the backbone of some coalition members turns to jelly when at a point when it becomes difficult for them to participate…
    ..and then the Bush administration is criticized for not sending more troops in?
    Can’t have it both ways, folks.

  • Time for fun with another internet poll: Should Spain withdraw its troops from Iraq? Every vote counts.

  • Jeremy

    More troops is not the answer, even if we had them (which we really don’t).
    The answer is, we need to train more and more Iraqis. That’s what we’re doing.
    It’s why the FBI doesn’t patrol the streets of cities. They don’t know the place or the people. Fresh troops being sent in will be have no connection at all. Iraqis do know Iraq, the neighborhoods, and the people. They can find who is doing what.

  • Doctor Slack

    The Iraqis absolutely have to take some ownership of their own security. And I mean from the bottom-up.
    I understood them to already be doing this — local militias have been operating in Iraq for a while now, have they not?
    The Bush administration goes to the trouble of putting together a coalition and then is criticized for the coalition not being big enough…
    That right there indicates you don’t understand it. The reason the “coalition of the willing” was regarded as a joke was not because of the number of nations involved, but because it was seen to be based on crass political opportunism and bribery to a far greater extent than any coalition ever built through the UN. (Just compare the “coalition of the willing” with the tangible contributions of the coalition that fought the first Gulf War.)
    Aznar’s political opportunism doomed him, and that opportunism was all that was keeping Spain in the coalition. So, there are two responses: complaining about it, and about how “the world” is so perfidious and unreliable (that’s worked pretty well so far, eh?), or trying to move forward and build on a new coalition on a different basis. Unfortunately, Bush now entirely lacks the credibility to pursue the second option.
    And yes, if doing Iraq right is genuinely key to American interests, then Bush should have no problem with putting more troops in no matter what happens with the coalition. America was originally supposed to be prepared to embark on that venture entirely alone, remember?
    Time for fun with another internet poll
    Running 62-34 in favour of Spanish choice, right now. Good.

  • miguel

    yes, we need more troops, obvs to shoot civilians.

  • onecent

    Good point, Jeremy.
    Friedman is naive in thinking that a whole lot more more US troops are going to make a dent in suicide missions/terrorist attacks. Israelis troops aren’t the remedy there. Getting committed Iraqis organized, recruiting a larger police force and putting regular Iraqi military on the borders(maybe?) will help. What’s harder, as it wasn’t there to begin with, is building Iraqi intelligence/counterintelligence services. There is nothing to recruit from as they were all Baathists, terrorizing the country before we invaded.

  • Richard Heddleson

    One week there aren’t enough troops in Iraq. The next, we’re stretched too thin world wide. If a third of the additional troops are training, a third are deployed and a third are recovering from deployment and preparing to go into training, we would need an additional 150,000 troops in the Army and it would take at least a year to train them up. Where was Friedman in 2002 calling for enlargement of the military so we would have all these extra troops now? And if he thinks supplies are short now, he has now, he has no conception how bad it would be with expanded troops because Congress never funds sufficiently for all the things the Army needs to make troops effective. Kerry’s voting record proves that. That is why Bush isn’t calling for them in spite of all the politicians grandstanding the issue.

  • Jeff,
    Its a good column from a man who has written a lot of good sense on Iraq over the past months.
    It is a shame he had to use that silly word appeasement though.
    I’m surprised at you taken this line to be honest. If your government had cynically lied to you the day after 9-11, spinning the attack for political gain while people still lay unburied, would you vote for them two days later?
    That’s what happened Jeff.

  • Chip Seiple

    Sorry, I’m not inclined to go along with all you Thursday evening quaterbacks.
    Just who gave Friedman his pseudo-creditials in military policy? The Army War College? Does he hold office in the Pentagon? The last I looked, from Rumsfeld on down the military brass were/are calling the shots! Do we listen to Gen John Abizaid and subordinates, or Friedman. The only “credentials” Friedman has are his employer [NYT], and his past Pulitzer prizes, both of which have suffered with credibility problems of late.
    Friedman says “tough on us for us not sending more troops to Iraq to assure and protect the growth of Democracy”. And just who made that determination?
    We must not let renegade and biased journalists dictate our military OR foreign policy, and write such ignorant columns and even wind up on “Buzzmachine”. Shame on you, Jeff.
    Summed up, let the best military machine ever assembled, and its most dedicated troops fight the war, not us quaterbacks and journalists speculating what we could or should have done better. Fact is, we could not.
    Chip in PA
    Vietnam Vet

  • Franky

    But Chip with such a post you’re removing any non-military person’s right to express an opinion about military concerns. Call me cynical but I hold the opinion expressed by a politician in days past: “war is too important a matter to be left to generals”.

  • Doctor Slack

    Summed up, let the best military machine ever assembled, and its most dedicated troops fight the war, not us quaterbacks and journalists speculating what we could or should have done better. Fact is, we could not.
    Well, true of course. But.
    But the military is an instrument of civilian policy, and increasingly it’s sent on missions for political purposes, by politicians who are civilians like anyone else. Seems to me the citizenry of a country have a responsibility to try and figure out what’s happening with those missions, and the truth or untruth of what their fellow civilians in leadership positions are telling them about them. After all, the citizens ultimately are supposed to be deciding whether or not those people made good enough choices to stay in office.
    Sure, it’s a very fine line between taking on that responsibility and keyboard quarterbacking. But.
    But at the same time, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a lot of lustre has come off the idea of, say, guys who hold office in the Pentagon as People Who Must Know Better Than Us. A lot of regular people, with little more than an internet connection, a few hours of spare time each week and a little disciplined research, suspected that the Office of Special Plans was loony and their “WMDs” were probably fiction long before those realities bit SecDef Rumsfeld in the proverbial hiney.
    That’s troubling in itself, of course. People in high office are paid to know better than us. And I guess that’s the point — citizens need to be able to figure out when their leaders are screwing up. That doesn’t mean every citizen should claim to be a military expert, but surely they need to be able to weigh the arguments of various people more informed than they are and figure out which ones best fit what they do know. That’s all Friedman is doing, whether or not you agree with him.