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Cruz has a Plan for Fighting ISIS

Ted CruzSenator Cruz has a plan to fight ISIS that we really need to consider:

BLITZER: Thank you. To be clear, Senator Cruz, would you carpet bomb Raqqa, the ISIS capital, where there are a lot of civilians, yes or no?

CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed — and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.

To make it — listen, ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they’re winning. And President Obama fuels that perception. That will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life, you are signing your death warrant, and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland, which should be the first priority.

Why has no one figured out that the way to defeat ISIS is to kill every single ISIS terrorist?  Obviously all we need to do is bomb the terrorists!  Cool.  Problem solved.

As Berkley Breathed noted:

As such, Opus’ is about as cogent as Cruz. Duh, indeed.

Back to the debate (this actually chronologically came before the above):

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

The fight against radical Islamic terrorists and ISIS has been called the war of our time. So let’s talk about how each of you, as commander in chief, would fight this war and win it.

Senator Cruz, you have said you would, quote, “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” testing whether, quote, “sand can glow in the dark.” Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?

CRUZ: What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.

All snark aside, the thing that is truly concerning here is that Cruz does not seem to understand the difference between fighting a regular army (and one that was deployed to the field in an invasion of Kuwait, and therefore directly exposed) and the entity that is ISIS.  While ISIS seeks to create a state it remains a non-state actor and is not engaged in conventional military activity that in any way resembles the Iraqi army in 1990/91.

I will readily allow that no one, regardless of party, has an especially good anti-ISIS strategy, but it would be nice if candidates for POTUS could at least deploy appropriate historical analogies.  Whatever ISIS may be, it is not the Iraqi army circa 1990 invading Kuwait.

Also:  another problem with the first Gulf War as an analogy to ISIS:  we left Saddam in power after the bombing and the mopping.  Is Cruz suggesting the same for ISIS?  (I suspect not).  The analogy does not fit.

When I listen to these guys I really do wonder if they have any idea what they are talking about (this is not necessarily surprising, but it is disconcerting).

I apologize for the snark, but this is the second time I have heard this from Cruz in the last week or so (the first was in an NPR interview) and I had the same reaction both times:  it is wholly ridiculous to use the first Gulf War as a policy comparison to the current conflict with ISIS.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    I can’t disagree with you on any of this James.

    CRUZ: What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.

    Does Ted understand that there is no ISIS world headquarters, no ISIS capital city, that ISIS is not analogous to Iraq or Kuwait?

    Never mind, absolutely none of that matters to those who support Ted Cruz.

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  2. Mikey says:

    Cruz is full of crap (no surprise, I know). First, we didn’t “carpet bomb” anything during the 1991 Gulf War air campaign, we ran almost entirely precision strikes, which are the fundamental opposite of carpet bombing. Second, the ground phase took almost four days and involved some of the largest battles ever fought by American forces, including the single largest armored engagement in American military history. It was pretty far from just “mopping up.”

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  3. Ron Beasley says:

    This rhetoric is scary but you never can be sure how much of it they actually believe themselves. Learning from history is important but learning from false history is inhumane and dangerous. Massive Ariel bombing has won few wars. The possible exception is WWII.
    Thank you for this bit of Sanity Steven.

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  4. @Mikey: Indeed. The ways in which all of this is wrong is pretty staggering.

    He made some boneheaded comparisons to WWII in the interview I heard as well.

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  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    First, we didn’t “carpet bomb” anything during the 1991 Gulf War air campaign, we ran almost entirely precision strikes

    You beat me to it, Mikey. (I suspected you might.)

    It’s pretty clear that Cruz doesn’t know what “carpet bomb” means. But even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he really means “precision munition strikes against every known and high-probability ISIS target”, he would kill a huge number of civilians by doing that. ‘Precision’ is relative.

    Of course, we also know that Ted doesn’t care — brown Muslim foreigners are not ‘civilians’ in the same sense that (say) Americans, or even Parisians in a club, are civilians. I begin to suspect that Cruz (and his followers) secretly feel that collateral damage when attacking targets in Muslim countries is a feature, not a bug.

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  6. Modulo Myself says:

    From Reuters;


    Reuters Top NewsVerified account
    ‏@Reuters
    BREAKING: San Bernardino shooters did not post support for jihad on social media: FBI

    Whoops! Just an honest mistake, I’m sure.

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  7. J-Dub says:

    I’m not sure if he used this specific phrasing, but it drove me crazy that Cruz was advocating targeted carpet bombing, as if that is not an oxymoron, or a Texan-moron as the case may be.

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  8. Joe says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Massive Ariel bombing has won few wars.

    Yes, but it has stopped the unchecked immigration of mermaids and their who-knows-what political beliefs.

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  9. cd6 says:

    Oh looks, more sissy little girl monday morning quarterbacking from the nambie-pambies on OTB.

    All I know is that if I or a loved one or close personal acquaintance were getting beat up in an alley, I could trust strategic genius and military expert Ted Cruz to carpet bomb my assailants into oblivion. That’s leadership you can trust! You sissies on the sidewalk moaning about collateral damage aren’t going to stop ISIS, that’s for damn sure.

    Cruz / Palin 2016

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  10. J-Dub says:

    Does the term “carpet bombing” even exist in the current DoD lexicon? I take carpet bombing to mean the dropping of massive amounts of dumb munitions, most of which will fail to hit their targets. Have we done this since the Vietnam War, 50 years ago?

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  11. C. Clavin says:

    The problem for this country is that nearly half of us seem unable to grasp what SLT makes crystal clear…these people are blithely un-tethered from reality.

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  12. Andre Kenji says:

    @Ron Beasley: Massive bombing did not won World War II. It was part of the equation, specially in the Western Front and in the Pacific, but it did not won the World War II.

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  13. DrDaveT says:

    @J-Dub:

    I take carpet bombing to mean the dropping of massive amounts of dumb munitions, most of which will fail to hit their targets. Have we done this since the Vietnam War, 50 years ago?

    In fact, we have. In addition to all of the precision strikes in the first Gulf War, we also dropped a lot of dumb bombs. It was the resulting side-by-side comparison, showing that you have to drop hundreds of dumb bombs (on average) to achieve the military effects of a single smart bomb, that removed dumb bombs from future CONOPS.

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  14. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Ron Beasley: “This rhetoric is scary but you never can be sure how much of it they actually believe themselves.” Cruz and the rest are speaking to their followers. Most Americans watching the news about DAESH in the Middle East see video of columns of Toyota pickups rolling across the desert so of course “carpet bombing” makes sense to them even though it’s a small part of the reality.

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  15. J-Dub says:

    @DrDaveT: I imagine there was a little “we need to get rid of these things somehow” mentality thrown in.

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  16. C. Clavin says:

    @J-Dub:
    I doubt he would find targets enough for 1000 bombing runs a day.
    We’ve run thousands of bombing runs already.
    I’m not sure how they were supposed to kill the Belgian citizens who did Paris, or the US citizen who did San Bernadino, or the US citizen who did the Planned Parenthood bombing in Colorado Springs.
    Carpet bombing is a terrible solution for terrorism…especially when you are carpet bombing Syria…and our biggest terror threat is from white christian males born in the US.

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  17. DrDaveT says:

    TL;DR: Cruz has the same plan as Charlie Sheen — “Winning!”

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  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    “Carpet bombing” is the same thing as “assault weapons.” It’s used by people who don’t know or don’t care that the terms have actual meanings as a substitute for “something that sounds powerful and scary.”

    The only real difference is that “assault weapon” is a made-up term and has no real definition, but derives from “assault rifle,” which does have an accepted definition. (And, to boot, was a term apparently invented by Hitler.)

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  19. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian: Fail. Carpet-bombing is by comparison to pinpoint bombing.

    One kills a lot of civilians. The other, hopefully, does not.

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  20. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Planned Parenthood was a shooting, not a bombing…sorry.

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  21. Pch101 says:

    I found it amusing that Cruz has incorporated “death warrant” into his anti-ISIS lexicon.

    Anyone who takes the time to watch ISIS recruiting videos can see that the promise of dying a virtuous death fighting as a martyr for Allah is one of the selling points offered to would-be jihadists. You may as well as promise to give them merit badges — death during combat is not a turn-off, but a sign of a job well done.

    What would be discouraging is the loss of territory and defeat for the collective. Kobani hurt ISIS recruiting efforts because the Kurds pushed them out (with the aid of Allied firepower), revealing that ISIS wasn’t so invincible, after all. They may not care about their own lives, but they don’t want the humiliation of losing the battle.

    In any case, one can’t expect this field of candidates to provide sound ideas about foreign policy. Even if they had any, the voters don’t have the patience to hear them, anyway.

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  22. C. Clavin says:

    I’m going to cash out my 401K because according to these Republicans we are all about to die.
    Seriously…this fear of ISIS is completely irrational..as are all of their proposed solutions. It’s Ebola all over again…where the entire Republican Clown car is willing to vacate the Constitution simply they are chicken shits. Or maybe they just understand that their base is made up of morons and they will believe whatever is spoon fed to them.
    So legitimate question; are they unqualified for the office, or simply lying their a$$es off to their base?

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  23. Mikey says:

    @Pch101:

    What would be discouraging is the loss of territory and defeat for the collective.

    Loss of territory would be devastating. No territory = no caliphate = no legitimacy = nobody showing up to fight on their side.

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  24. Pharoah Narim says:

    @DrDaveT: To be accurate a precision strike can be conducted with standard DUMB bombs (they are far more accurate than the WWII/Vietnam variety dumb bomb.). When people hear precision they think GPS and laser-guided. These munitions were a small percentage of the munitions used in of “precision” strikes. Its only targets with high collateral damage potential that require the “smart” munitions that can land on the bullseye with razor thin margin of error

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  25. Mikey says:

    @DrDaveT: I actually think he does have massive dumps of dumb bombs in mind. He’s already expressed willingness to nuke the place. He’s just ignorant of how Desert Storm’s air phase was conducted, and about just how many tanks and troops we sent through a couple hundred miles of desert to root out the dug-in enemy.

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  26. stonetools says:

    Looks like Ted Cruz revealed for all the world to see just how ignorant he is of military policy. But then all the leading Republican candidates showed their ignorance. Donald Trump, for example, showed he had no idea what the nuclear triad was, although its the cornerstone of our nuclear weapons policy, and Carson apparently thought being a brain surgeon was all the expertise he needed for defense policy.
    Only Rubio showed he know even the rudiments of military policy knowledge, and even then , his preferred policy on the ME seems to be to send in a large ground army for no sensible purpose.

    Dan Drezner sums up:

    Last night, the GOP debate focused entirely on foreign policy while only mentioning China for two minutes, which meant that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and the other debate moderators concentrated on terrorism and the Middle East.

    One of the things that was said repeatedly by numerous GOP candidates — particularly Ted Cruz — is that the real problem with current American foreign policy is that there is just too much political correctness. Apparently, if politicians, policymakers and pundits were less afraid to speak the truth, our country would be more secure.

    Okay, here goes: The overwhelming bulk of what the GOP candidates had to say last night was pure, unadulterated horses***.

    Looks like Hillary Clinton won the Republican FP debate.

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  27. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    Loss of territory would be devastating.

    Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

    I can’t claim any expertise here, but I would think that an effective anti-ISIS propaganda campaign would endeavor to show them as cowards. Film them surrendering. Portray the dead ones as having been killed while retreating — to add icing to the cake, let the female fighters take the credit, parading in front of their corpses and describing how the ISIS forces were running away when they were killed.

    They should also be portrayed as killers of children. The Koran is pretty clear that killing children in jihad is wrong, so that they move a few of them.

    Lecturing them about Islam won’t help, as they obviously have their own interpretations of it and don’t need Christians to tell them about their faith. And promising them death is certainly not going to help, unless the goal is to help ISIS with its marketing effort.

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  28. Electroman says:

    @J-Dub: Yes, it involves s-loads of “iron bombs”, which are indeed unguided. Carpet bombing isn’t actually the same thing as “area bombardment”, which is what the Brits did in WWII, for example. Who knows what Cruz meant, though.

    BTW, carpet bombing is a war crime according to the 1977 update to the Geneva Conventions.

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  29. Mikey says:

    @Pch101:

    Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

    Indeed. And it may require a commitment we’re not willing to make at this time.

    I can’t claim any expertise here, but I would think that an effective anti-ISIS propaganda campaign would endeavor to show them as cowards.

    I think we’re losing the propaganda side of this pretty badly. IS is really good with social media and really good with publication–seriously, they have professionals working on their online magazine. Aside from too-frequent pictures of corpses, that thing looks really good. I’m not sure what we have, leaflet drops? Maybe there’s more I’m not aware of.

    I’m not saying a glossy periodical is the solution, but you’re right, a propaganda campaign aimed at showing them running away rather than accepting martyrdom (which it appears one of the Paris attackers has actually done) certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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  30. Pch101 says:

    @Mikey:

    I think we’re losing the propaganda side of this pretty badly.

    During WWII, a great deal of effort was made to learn about the cultures of our opponents so that we could win the occupation. The effort proved to be highly successful, as demonstrated by the failed effort by former Nazi guerrilla forces to disrupt the occupation of Germany and the PR benefits of the Berlin Airlift.

    That seems to be lacking here. We don’t have enough native speakers or enough cultural knowledge — if anything, the US actively discourages such knowledge out of fears that the operators will “go native” and be disloyal, which is foolish thinking on our part. The US also has a nasty habit of throwing the locals who help us to the wolves when we decide to retreat, which can’t help.

    Western foreign fighters are attracted to jihad because they are disaffected, idealistic and/or nihilistic, and our media efforts should reflect that. It’s a joke to think that calling them names (which appeals to the right) or pretending that we are in position to tell them that they are bad Muslims (which appeals to the left) would possibly help.

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  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    This isn’t getting enough play. This alleged Facebook post was the fear-mongers smoking gun…now there is apparently zero connection between these two kooks and ISIS. Not that it will matter to the Republican base.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Its only targets with high collateral damage potential that require the “smart” munitions that can land on the bullseye with razor thin margin of error

    I’m sorry, this is not true. It is only the “smart” munitions that can reliably hit what you are aiming at. Any use of dumb bombs is statistical — you will hit what you were aiming at one time in a few hundred tries. If you want to destroy a particular target, and you don’t want to level everything around it for kilometers, and you want to spend as little time over the target as possible, you need a smart munition. “High collateral damage potential” is not the only situation in which you would prefer not to smear 1000 bombs over an area the size of Pittsburgh, just to hit one target.

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  33. James P says:

    I can’t wait to find out if sand can glow when Cruz is finished carpet bombing Raaqa. There is no reason why any building should be standing in Raaqa.

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  34. James P says:

    @C. Clavin: None of the above. They’re going to make our country great again.

    We;re going to build a wall (with Mexico paying for it), we’re going to deport the illegals, and we’re going to keep Muslims the hell out of this country.

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  35. grumpy realist says:

    Another good article from the Chicago Tribune showing why carpet bombing of ISIS would be a bad, bad idea.

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  36. grumpy realist says:

    Looks like our local nitwit has shown up again.

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  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pch101:

    The effort proved to be highly successful, as demonstrated by the failed effort by former Nazi guerrilla forces to disrupt the occupation of Germany

    There was no effort by former Nazi guerrilla forces to disrupt the occupation of Germany. It’s entirely a myth, it just didn’t happen. I think there was a grand total of one American soldier who was killed in post VE-Day combat in Germany.

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  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Jenos Idanian: That’s why I refer to the semi-automatic M-16s and AK-47s and the numerous variants and imitators as “pretend assault rifles”.

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  39. Pch101 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    There were efforts by Himmler and Goebbels to mount a guerrilla campaign (the Werwolf commandos) that would continue after the war, but it never attracted much support after the war. Their efforts post-war were sporadic at most.

    The point is that the Allies did a better job in managing the German occupation than the US did with Iraq. The Allies understood that not every Nazi party member was a diehard. In contrast, Bremer and Rumsfeld laid the groundwork for an Iraqi resistance movement by treating every Baath party member as a threat.

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  40. grumpy realist says:

    @Rafer Janders: But boy were the Werewolves a great villain that kept showing up in spy thrillers.

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  41. Tyrell says:

    But look at the alternatives : Hillary has a plan, but just another containment rehash: lacks clarity, vision, boldness, and imagination; she needs to jump past everyone with a bold plan that has a timetable for total victory ! Her plan is as exciting as a 7th. grade spelling test ! Sanders – blames the weather, is in denial about terrorism, just keeps hoping it will just go away. Sanders has seriously hurt his chances with his weak, tepid responses to the horrific terrorist attacks of recent weeks.

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  42. dazedandconfused says:

    Primary voters are primarily primal. They only care about how the people on the stage feel not what they think, therefore facts are all but meaningless. If anything focusing on facts is cause to question the candidate’s sincerity: “What is that person trying to do, BS us? He’s definitely not one of us, that much is clear.”

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  43. anjin-san says:

    @Mikey:

    I think we’re losing the propaganda side of this pretty badly.

    Kind of an understatement there. Trump and Cruz are probably the most effective recruiting tools ISIS has. Those charming Facebook graphics about “Playing Cowboys and Muslims” are probably pretty effective too – just not in the way people who post them think they are.

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  44. WR says:

    @Tyrell: “Her plan is as exciting as a 7th. grade spelling test ”

    Yes, and everyone knows that the only important aspect of foreign policy is its entertainment value.

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  45. bill says:

    well seeing as obama has no clue about how to deal with them maybe trump has the right idea- stop importing them.
    muslims killing each other is just fine, it’s who they really are despite the “washed up on shore” victims the media loves to put on the front page.
    these people exist in a time that we long since left behind- they do not like anyone, treat women like dogs, hate gays even more and will not assimilate into any society that doesn’t force them to.
    the sheikdoms could afford to help them don’t want them and they hate each other anyways, so who in their right mind would think we could find them to be of any use here? it’s not like they’re going to pick fruits/vegs to get by when the gov’t. throws money at them. don’t we have enough freeloaders here already?

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  46. anjin-san says:

    @bill:

    muslims killing each other is just fine, it’s who they really are

    I guess you have not checked out the numbers on Americans killing each other…

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  47. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pch101:

    There were efforts by Himmler and Goebbels to mount a guerrilla campaign (the Werwolf commandos) that would continue after the war, but it never attracted much support after the war. Their efforts post-war were sporadic at most.

    The “efforts” existed entirely on paper as a planning exercise and were never put into practice — essentially it was a management exercise to show Hitler. It was “sporadic” only in the sense of being entirely non-existent.

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  48. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’m speaking with some expertise here because not only has this been an area of academic study for me, but I also have close personal and family knowledge of it.

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  49. Pch101 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You keep missing the point, which is that the occupation of Germany did not provoke any meaningful resistance, while the occupation of Iraq did.

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  50. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pch101:

    Well, no, I get the point, but they were two entirely different situations. Iraq was occupied within a very very short time of the initial invasion, so while the formal military was defeated, the society as a whole had not been ground down by years of war. Germany, on the other hand, faced total defeat after six years of total and unrelenting warfare, having lost millions of dead, both civilian and military, and with a governing ideology that had been shown to be both a monstrous evil and a complete fraud. Moreover, since Germany was split between the Western Allies and the Russians, the Germans knew that it was far better for them to cleave to the Americans as a defense against further gains by the Communists.

    While they were both “occupations”, the fact that the occupation of Germany went so smoothly, relatively speaking, was due far more to the viciousness and totality of the conflict that preceded it, rather than to the decisions that the occupying authorities made. (Though, to be fair, the American occupiers were overall smart, well-meaning, capable and far-sighted, in great contrast to the occupation of Iraq).

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  51. bill says:

    @anjin-san: statistically speaking, rather low these days. see the crime stats for reference- the fbi has them and google should be your best friend by now.
    don’t mean to toss a wet blanket on your red hot love for muslims…..whatever that entails.

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  52. DrDaveT says:

    @bill:

    [Muslims] do not like anyone, treat women like dogs, hate gays even more and will not assimilate into any society that doesn’t force them to

    Don’t forget the horns and tails.

    You’ve never actually known any Muslims, have you? (The guy driving your cab doesn’t count.) Gone to school with them, worked and played with them, guested in their homes and hosted them in yours? Talked with them about this and that over a period of months or years?

    It shows.

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  53. Pch101 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    If the US had followed the Powell Doctrine with an occupation force to match and not followed the Rumsfeld-Bremer de-Baathification plan, then I suspect that the US could have won the Iraq occupation.

    The Shiite majority and the much-abused Kurds were quite happy to see Hussein ousted. The occupation had the potential for success, given that the vast majority of the population was receptive to the idea of overthrowing the government.

    But the lack of a sufficient occupation force led to immediate chaos in the streets, while de-Baathification decapitated the ability to rebuild the Iraqi military to the point that it could serve as a defensive force that could maintain the regional balance of power vis-a-vis Iran.

    I suspect that if the types of minds that prevailed during the FDR-Truman era had been in the White House after 9/11 that the Iraq occupation would have been a winner. As it turns out, the Bush administration had the level of competence that one would expect from a pack of posters on YouTube and Twitter. (Admittedly, such a plan would have also required a temporary draft, which would have conflicted with Bush 43’s “go shopping in the face of terrorism” ethos.)

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  54. Rafer Janders says:

    @Pch101:

    I suspect that if the types of minds that prevailed during the FDR-Truman era had been in the White House after 9/11 that the Iraq occupation would have been a winner.

    Well, I like to think that if the type of minds that prevailed during the FDR-Truman era had been in the White House, they never would have launched an illegal and unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq in the first place….at the end, it just becomes a case of “if these were competent people, they would have done it competently.” True, perhaps, but that assumes a best case that never existed in our Bush-era reality.

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    @Pch101:

    If the US had followed the Powell Doctrine with an occupation force to match and not followed the Rumsfeld-Bremer de-Baathification plan, then I suspect that the US could have won the Iraq occupation.

    That may well be true. Of course, we would not yet know, because it would still be an ongoing everyday struggle 14 years later. These things take time.

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  56. bill says:

    @DrDaveT: why yes i have, went on a road trip with a pali bud long ago and have some “colleagues” of the faith. my thirst for hops and other alcoholic bevs seems to limit any other interaction with them…..

    but we’re speaking of the “mid-east” versions- the one’s who are constantly at war with each other and would rather cross an ocean to live here than with members their own faith……as they hate them.
    whatever we’re doing isn’t working, it’s been 5+ decades of blowing up others for their own problems.

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