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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Bollettino

The WP gives one of those “let’s pretend to care about the casualties’ articles that are bound to occur as US casualties hit 1,000 – and will reoccur at 1,500 and 2,000 – that contains some astonishingly stupid grafs generated by the WP line that “nobody” could have guessed what a butcher shop Iraq was going to become.

“Before the war, predictions by even the most skeptical Bush administration critics did not include scenarios of escalating violence this long after the invasion, or of the U.S. military issuing a news release such as the one it sent out Tuesday morning, headlined "Fighting Continues in Eastern Baghdad." In addition, several cities near Baghdad have slipped from U.S. control in recent months and have become "no-go zones" for U.S. troops.
"No one that I know of, to include the most pessimistic experts, predicted a full-scale insurgency would break out within a couple of months of the overthrow of the old regime," said Steven Metz, a guerrilla warfare expert at the Army War College.
Now, Metz said, "the current situation may be sustained for a very long time."
Really? So nobody could have predicted this, eh? Hmm. LI remembers writing several posts pointing out that occupations generally become more, not less dangerous as they are prolonged. We like to think of ourselves as gifted – but we aren’t that gifted. We were stating a generalization known to any military historian who bothered to look. And, according to our blog, last May, after Baghdad fell, Adnan Pachachi said this to Business Week: . "Very soon there will be a void in the power structure of Iraq, and Iraqis should fill that void, It is not in the interest of the U.S. to prolong its military presence. Their soldiers will be exposed to greater danger as time goes on."

Ah, but Pachachi was, let’s face it, an Iraqi – what important D.C. thinktank had he ever published an important paper in? What important dinner had Sally Quinn ever invited him to?
As the Iraq war continues to wend its corrupt, corpse laden way through the American body politic, it just may have one healthy effect – to generate disgust with the D.C. elite that governs this country. A brain dead, arrogant, bribe-able mass of second raters if ever there was one, comparable to the French governing elite on the eve of World War II.

As for predictions – this gets us close to a topic we are going to do a post about later. But we reprint here a post we wrote last year, Monday, March 31, 2003:
When this War began, Mr. Limited Inc and Mr. Gadfly had a little discussion about the nature of forecasts. Mr. Limited Inc took exception to Mr. Gadfly's idea that nothing could be known about what the future held. Au contraire mon frere, we said. We know that one thing will happen and then another thing will happen. This might seem like a whole lotta null set, but it is really a whole lotta structure. We reject radical skepticism about the structure of the future. However, to be honest, we are making a point that is besides the point for Mr. Gadfly, who was pointing out something about knowledge. . Nobody in the U.S. knows enough about Iraq, and nobody in Iraq knows enough about the U.S., to make any wise prediction as to the outcome, on a realtime basis, of their encounter. This is actually a very strong point. We even think it is one of the strongest points that can be made.

But we think our point is also strong. Structure is important because, while it doesn't give us a picture of the substance of future events, it gives us a rule about how they must unfold. Ignoring the "then and then and then" structure puts a plan on a collision course with reality. When a plan violates the principle that the past has already happened (or, in other words, when a plan is premised on an incompletely known past, or a past that has been distorted by the planner in some way), it will fail, even if its outcome, by happy chance, occurs. If I try to burn down a building on a stormy day with wet matches, the building is not going to torch -- but a lightening stroke might do the trick. Plans have a trajectory over time. Planners who aren't sensitive to the temporal nature of the plan's actualization are also in violation of the above rule, although in a subtler sense -- they are adding to the past as they try to control a process that is going on into the future. We have to understand, in other words, how to sum over probabilities, and how to revise ourselves when those probabilities are realized over time.

This is why, so often, business plans go awry. Businessmen are peculiarly prone to becoming prisoners of the superlative. They are addicts of the vision statement, in which �best practices", "superb performance", and the "highest levels of excellence" vie with each other to debauch meaning. They throw around locutions like �"world class," and they are big believers in a crude version of William James' Will to Believe -- they like to think that wishing on a star will make your wish come true, or at least true enough that they can get sell their options on the star before it twinkles out. Ross Perot is the echt businessman. He came dancing out of that culture, he mouthed that culture's platitudes, and he seemed to speak a slightly deranged variant of the English tongue. Bush has the same problem. Language is always such a naysayer. But all too often, the vision statement fails. The dogs won't eat the dogfood. The punchdrunk won't drink the punch. What to do? After all, one has just indulged in an orgy of orgulousness? At this point, you look around for traitors. Failure becomes a question of disloyalty.

This is pertinent: after all, we are being directed in this war by the CEO mindset armed.

This is important if, as we think is the case, we are seeing the war split into two. One is the war against Saddam the Horrific. The other is the war against the post-Saddam guerrilla. The latter has no name, yet; the incipient program is simply, repel the invader. As the invader triumphs, setting up a state run by Rumsfeld's creepy buddy, Jay Garner (who has a first class ticket to Bushs monster ball, being one of the numerous hawks who have day jobs as Perlish vultures), we will have a new war. In this one, the Iraqi state will be our ally against Iraqi "terrorists" -- that is, the people who are firing on American forces and their Iraqi collaborators. In the new war, the goal will be a lot clearer -- it will be to repel the occupiers. As the krewe of Iraqi exiles preferred by the Pentagon are installed (over the resistance of other Iraqis) get set up, the traditional lines of the conflict will become clear a client state, an imperialist sponsor, and the usual poisonous symbiosis between them, with the client depending on the sponsor to sustain it at the same time that that dependence renders it illegitimate.

Slate's Fred Kaplan wrote an interesting report, last week, on how the military gamed its own war game on Iraq. The war game pitted two teams -- the blues, representing true blue America, and the reds, representing red as in blood Saddam H. As soon as the red team started acting in such a fashion as to upset the blue team, the rules were changed, moves were disallowed, and in general the pre-ordained triumph of the blues was vindicated at the expense of the game's realism.


Kaplan restrains himself when it comes to the Strangelovian name of the Red commander Van Riper, one "p" away from Ripper, if you can believe it �Here are three grafs that tell a lot about Bush's War:

For instance -- and here is where he displayed prescience - Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to Red troops, thereby eluding Blue's super-sophisticated eavesdropping technology. He maneuvered Red forces constantly. At one point in the game, when Blue's fleet entered the Persian Gulf, he sank some of the ships with suicide-bombers in speed boats. (At that point, the managers stopped the game, "refloated" the Blue fleet, and resumed play.)

"Robert Oakley, a retired U.S. ambassador who played the Red civilian leader, told the Army Times that Van Riper was "out-thinking" Blue Force from the first day of the exercise.

"Yet, Van Riper said in his e-mail, the game's managers remanded some of his moves as improper and simply blocked others from being carried out. According to the Army Times summary, "Exercise officials denied him the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against Blue, and on several occasions directed [Red Force] not to use certain weapons systems against Blue. It even ordered him to reveal the location of Red units."

Finally, Van Riper quit the game in protest, so as not to be associated with what would be misleading results.��

The blue game is the one they are reporting 24/7 in the American news media. We wonder how long it is going to take before the Red game is reported. Iraq, as we keep reminding our loyal band of readers, is not Afghanistan - or not, at least, the Afghanistan of our dream war. In reality, Afghanistan is heating up again -- we simply aren't paying attention to it. As why should we - we aren't planning on making Afghanistan an American protectorate. That cow doesnt milk, as we say in Texas. Or is it that cow doesn't hunt dogs? We always mix up our folksy phrases.

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