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Subject: The Australian - Iraq war stupid, Aussie David Kilcullen tells US
Aussiegunneragain    8/2/2008 9:30:46 PM
Geoff Elliott, Washington correspondent | August 02, 2008 DAVID Kilcullen, the Australian counter-insurgency expert who advises US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has stepped into a political minefield after being quoted as saying the decision to invade Iraq was "f..king stupid". The comments were seized on by left-leaning blogs as lending weight to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, whose early opposition to the war is one of the central themes of his campaign. Dr Kilcullen told The Weekend Australian yesterday that he had been misquoted, but in a lengthy blog he posted this week on the Small Wars Journal website he did not deny the comment, saying the journalist reporting it "did not clear the quote with me". Dr Kilcullen, 41, has had a rapid rise to the top of the US military and diplomatic establishment, in part because of his straightforward approach. He had said previously the Iraqi invasion would be tougher than the Bush administration had anticipated, but his blunt statement this week shocked Washington insiders. Dr Kilcullen, the chief author of Counterinsurgency: A Guide for Policy-makers, explained to the online newspaper the Washington Independent that the handbook, to be released late this year, tells policy-makers to "think very, very carefully before intervening". Journalist Spencer Ackerman then wrote: "More bluntly, Kilcullen, who helped (General David) Petraeus design his 2007 counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, called the decision to invade Iraq "stupid' - in fact, he said 'f..king stupid' - and suggested that if policy-makers apply the manual's lessons, similar wars can be avoided in the future." Dr Kilcullen said on Small Wars that the journalist "did not seek to clear that quote with me, and I would not have approved it if he had". "If he had sought a formal comment, I would have told him what I have said publicly before: in my view, the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was an extremely serious strategic error. "But the task of the moment is not to cry over spilt milk, rather to help clean it up: a task in which the surge, the comprehensive counterinsurgency approach, and our troops on theground are admirably succeeding," he said. Asked if the comments damaged his position at the State Department, a spokesman told The Weekend Australian: "David never claims to have said what you say he said. I believe this is much ado about nothing. As he says himself, his views in general have been pretty clear." Dr Kilcullen, who has been described as one of the most influential Australian military minds of his generation, grew up on Sydney's north shore. He studied counterinsurgency as a cadet at Duntroon, served for more than 20 years in the Australian army and was awarded a PhD in political science from the University of NSW for a thesis on Indonesian insurgent and terrorist groups and counterinsurgency methods. Senator Obama has consistently stated that he opposed the war and that it would stoke anti-US feelings in the Muslim world. But he opposed the surge in troops, while his Republican opponent John McCain supported the invasion and a surge well before the Bush administration finally decided to send more soldiers in January last year. ---------------------------------------------------------------------
 
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theBird       8/4/2008 9:36:49 AM
Don't forget there already was a democracy in the Middle East known as Israel long before the Iraq war started and they were and are more than capable of beating back any Iranian or Arab aggression in the region.  Additionally in WWII we never entered the war with the intent of "democracizing" Germany or Japan, they attacked first in Europe and at Pearl Harbor and our pressing goal was beating them back by whatever means necessary and blowing up enough of their people and stuff that they were forced to sue for peace.  The decision to stay and occupy came afterwards as a way to keep them from going on a rampage again, and correct me if I'm wrong, but there was no giant insurgency that followed (they were so devestated that they'd rather cooperate with the Allies than keep fighting an irregular war).  In Iraq on the other hand the initial goal was to democratize by invading the place expecting to be greated as liberators (which actually was the case in Kurdistan, not so much for the rest of the country). 
 
Also in terms of national interests, if the US wanted to have a presence in the ME in order to keep oil production safe, it would have been much better to just up strength in Saudi Arabia, where we were already present, instead of go through the trouble of invading Iraq, beating back the insurgency and then setting up shop. 

 
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theBird       8/4/2008 9:46:10 AM
Also during WWII the only places we wanted or expected to be greeted as liberators was in France and other places the Nzi's invaded.  In Germany itself, we viewed the German people to be collectively guilty of the crimes they committed; we didn't come to "liberate" them from Hitler and the Nazis, we were there to punish them for atrocities they committed and war they made us fight and make sure they never did any such thing again.
 
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fall out       8/5/2008 8:40:26 PM


I agree that if Iraq becomes a democracy then this will have been worth it and I supported the invasion on that basis. -- I'm surprised that you actually believed said politicians that invading Iraq was about spreading democracy in the region and that this was the main reason for invading Iraq.  Come on AG, I know your smarter than that, you know full well that the reason has nothing to do with democracy and freedom but getting a foothold into the world's premier fuel station.

 
Personally I hope McCain gets in and keeps the troops there for as long as it takes as I believe that now that the mistake has been made the US has to live with it. However I wouldn't blame the US people if they wanted to wash their hands of the whole affair as it is their sons and daughters who are getting killed and a majority of the population didn't support the war in the first place. --- The Iraqi war is going nowhere, it has been made abundentely clear that the majority of Iraqi's do not want an occupying force in THEIR country, al-Q is on the run, security is improving and the senior American commander has recently stated that Iraq will be ready to takeover the reigns fully in 12-18months time and might I remind you of another war going on which is IMO far more important in the war on terrorism, Afghanistan which is where the two US candidates differ the most as Obama wants re-focus America's efforts in Afghanistan which can only be a positive move, Iraq will stabilize and with the extra resources pumped into Afghanistan things should stabilize there also, hopefully rendering al-q operationally ineffective, create better living conditions for 25m people who have had foreign invaders, occupyers, etc for centuries in their country and also destroy the poppy fields which are feeding junkies around the world with 90-95% of the global heroin coming from Afghanistan.

Let's not forget the two reasons for invading Iraq in the first place, Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Destruction, invading Iraq has shown that there were no WMDs, at least nothing on the scale to threaten the West (remember Blair stating that in just minutes Saddam could launch missiles hitting Europe) and has only served to create a breeding ground for those who really detest America to take up arms against them.
 
George Bush Jnr - People will look back in a generation and say how he was the worst President in US history and made some of the biggest mistakes of the 21st century (that's including his inaction on global warming also).
 
FO :)

 
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Aussiegunneragain    Fallout   8/6/2008 8:41:34 AM
Who said anything about believing any politicians? I just said I supported the invasion upon the basis that it would bring democracy to Iraq, whether that was the intention or just a side effect. I doubt that even you are going to argue against the potential benefits of a large Middle Eastern democracy, are you Fallout? If a stable democracy becomes a reality it will allow the Iraqi people control over their own destiny that they have never had and demonstrate the benefits of democracy to others in the Middle East, giving people a positive alternative to the false prophets of Arab nationalism and radical Islam. It would also secure the "worlds premier fuel station" so that they can safely sell their oil and put the proceeds to good use for the inhabitants rather than for the benefit of a warmongering dictator, as well as benefitting those of us who need the security of being able to buy the stuff.
 
Basically it would have been a goal worth pursuing if the Yanks were properly prepared to do the job properly when they went in, but they weren't and consequently the whole thing has been a monumental balls up that has cost far to many lives and made energy prices worse than they were previously.
 
By the way, the argument that the US is occupying Iraq is bullsh1t and you do yourself no credit by associating yourself with it. The US military remains in Iraq because the elected Iraqi government agrees to let it. It was a condition imposed by the French when the US asked the UN security council to take the lead in Iraq  and the Americans agreed. The Iraqi government can ask the Americans to leave any time it sees fit.
 
The notion that the vast majority of Iraqi's want the Americans to leave is also wrong. David Killcullen who is the subject of the article above has previously said,
 
"It's important to realise Iraqis don't want us to leave. They are terrified we are going to leave. If we walk away it will be like Rwanda. And it won't be quick. It will play out on CNN over five years."
 
>>
 
I think that he is in a position to know and definately isn't biased on the topic, given that he has reportedly just said that his current employers were "f*cking stupid" for invading in the first place.
 
As for your faith that Al Queda is on the run and that the Iraqis will be able to take over in the 12 to 18 months, I note with bemusement that it is similar to Kevin's position that the war is won. Personally I hope that you are both right because if you are then the whole saga will have been worth it. However, given that Kilcullen points out that the troubles in Northern Ireland took 30 years to resolve and given that I don't believe that Irish religious zealots and thugs were any madder or badder than Arab ones, I think you guys are being far too optimistic.



 
 
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fall out       8/6/2008 9:10:21 PM


Who said anything about believing any politicians? I just said I supported the invasion upon the basis that it would bring democracy to Iraq, whether that was the intention or just a side effect. I doubt that even you are going to argue against the potential benefits of a large Middle Eastern democracy, are you Fallout? If a stable democracy becomes a reality it will allow the Iraqi people control over their own destiny that they have never had and demonstrate the benefits of democracy to others in the Middle East, giving people a positive alternative to the false prophets of Arab nationalism and radical Islam. It would also secure the "worlds premier fuel station" so that they can safely sell their oil and put the proceeds to good use for the inhabitants rather than for the benefit of a warmongering dictator, as well as benefitting those of us who need the security of being able to buy the stuff.

 Well I have a problem because alot of innocent people have died purely due to Bush's desire to gain a foothold in the world's 3rd largest oil reserve, I agree that if and when Iraq becomes a stable democracy it will be a very good thing, but forcing them to adopt a new political system by invading the country is not an option.  There are plenty of other crackhead despots ruling other 3rd world countries around the world but they don't have any asset worth America's time, effort and resources.  Your talking about freedom and democracy then the Iraqi people should have the right to choose if they even want to be Iraqi; I believe in self-determination no matter what,  I understand the possible ramifications of Iraq splitting but if this is truly what the majority of people want then so be it.
  

Basically it would have been a goal worth pursuing if the Yanks were properly prepared to do the job properly when they went in, but they weren't and consequently the whole thing has been a monumental balls up that has cost far to many lives and made energy prices worse than they were previously.

That's opened up a can of worms; so if it's in America's interest and they can do it effectively, are you saying that they have the green light to invade any nation providing it is a 'goal worth pursuing'? Let me just say how well do you think the American economy would be going right now if Bush spent the hundreds of billions not on the Iraqi war but on converting the American economy from energy dependent on hostile foreign nations supplying fossil fuels to being energy independent where they were more cushioned from any spike in oil prices, not to mention the benefit of having a burgeoning non-fossil fuel industry that would help to contribute to reducing possibly the 21st centuries gravest threat to the planet; climate change.
 
By the way, the argument that the US is occupying Iraq is bullsh1t and you do yourself no credit by associating yourself with it. The US military remains in Iraq because the elected Iraqi government agrees to let it. It was a condition imposed by the French when the US asked the UN security council to take the lead in Iraq  and the Americans agreed. The Iraqi government can ask the Americans to leave any time it sees fit.

Well;
 
 
Who know's if those links work but the Iraqi govt has repeatedly stated that they want US troops out as soon as possible, surely part of the problem is the mere presence of Western forces in Iraq is partly contributing to some groups rebelling against these (what they see) occupyers.
 
The notion that the vast majority of Iraqi's want the Americans to leave is also wrong. David Killcullen who is the subject of the article above has previously said,

 

"It's important to realise Iraqis don't want us to leave. They are terrified we are going to leave. If we walk away it will be like Rwanda. And it won't be quick. It will play out on CNN over five years."

 
Well if it like Rwanda then the West will sit back and do nothing and watch thousands, possibly millions die and when it's almost over then send in a half-arsed peacekeeping mission.  I wonder if Rwanda had large oil, gas, mineral desposits, reserves, etc if the West would have gone if like they did to save Kuwait?  Have a think about that.
 
 
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Aussiegunneragain    FO   8/7/2008 10:18:10 AM
In broad response to your post, what I believe is that if a country decides to take military action for a goal that I believe is worthwhile and if they can do it effectively, then I will support it. As long as the decision meets those conditions then I don't care whether it is in their interest or whether they are doing it altruistically, that is their buisiness. I'm interested in seeing good results, not in surmising motives.
 
I also accept that countries are going to pick and choose their conflicts based on their own interests and don't hold one country or group of countries (such as "the West")  responsible for solving all of the worlds problem, especially when they don't impact on our own national interest. If we can reasonably help a nation with a minimal loss of our own troops lives, without affecting other military operations being conducted in our own national interest and without sending us broke then we should (and as happenned in the Balkens and Timor), but if we can't then the conflict is ultimately the problem of the people in the country concerned.
 
I also think that you are being very naive if you think that throwing money for economic development in the absence of adequate security is going to solve any problems. Economic security is of course important but it can't be achieved in the middle of a war. In Iraq a lack of money for development isn't even a problem, there are companies worldwide that would throw money at the Iraqi oil industry to develop it if it wasn't so risky. Despite that oil production is lower than pre-war levels because of the security situation. Try throwing money at develoment there and see if it gets the Iraqis anywhere.
 
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fall out       8/7/2008 10:10:30 PM

In broad response to your post, what I believe is that if a country decides to take military action for a goal that I believe is worthwhile and if they can do it effectively, then I will support it. As long as the decision meets those conditions then I don't care whether it is in their interest or whether they are doing it altruistically, that is their buisiness. I'm interested in seeing good results, not in surmising motives.

 Fair enough, I personally struggle to see how many good results can come out of any war, but each to their own.

I also accept that countries are going to pick and choose their conflicts based on their own interests and don't hold one country or group of countries (such as "the West")  responsible for solving all of the worlds problem, especially when they don't impact on our own national interest. If we can reasonably help a nation with a minimal loss of our own troops lives, without affecting other military operations being conducted in our own national interest and without sending us broke then we should (and as happenned in the Balkens and Timor), but if we can't then the conflict is ultimately the problem of the people in the country concerned.

 Like Rwanda, the Congo, Darfur, Eritrea, etc?  I understand what your saying but I just don't agree with it, "we" as in the Democratic West walk around sniffing our own farts most of the times, lecturing other nations, societies on how to live their lives, we say how important and majestic it is having a free market based democracy but when something erupts into killing fields like said nations and others, we watch it on TV, maybe slap a few sanctions and possibly send in some very belated peacekeepers.  I find that highly hypocritical and offensive.  But, I'm not interesting in arguing on here anymore, just debating! :)

I also think that you are being very naive if you think that throwing money for economic development in the absence of adequate security is going to solve any problems. Economic security is of course important but it can't be achieved in the middle of a war. In Iraq a lack of money for development isn't even a problem, there are companies worldwide that would throw money at the Iraqi oil industry to develop it if it wasn't so risky. Despite that oil production is lower than pre-war levels because of the security situation. Try throwing money at develoment there and see if it gets the Iraqis anywhere.

I don't believe that at all, I should have clarified it better.  I realise that their is no point at all pumping billions into economic development if it's just going to be blown up later, but, there needs to be a much greater emphasize placed on it.  Also, hopefully when the situation is stable, then there will be a snowball effect as more and more Iraqis get more and better paying jobs and the economy starts to boom (oil prices certainly will help).

How's Canberra treating you btw?  Nice and cold I bet, have been thinking about possibly moving there if I can get some work in the public service in a few years, would love to buy a smallish property outside of Canberra; 5-20 acres would be good.  Got any recommendations? :)
 
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Aussiegunneragain       8/8/2008 10:34:31 PM
Fair enough, I personally struggle to see how many good results can come out of any war, but each to their own.

And yet you support the war in Afghanistan. How do you reconcile that?


Like Rwanda, the Congo, Darfur, Eritrea, etc?  I understand what your saying but I just don't agree with it, "we" as in the Democratic West walk around sniffing our own farts most of the times, lecturing other nations, societies on how to live their lives, we say how important and majestic it is having a free market based democracy but when something erupts into killing fields like said nations and others, we watch it on TV, maybe slap a few sanctions and possibly send in some very belated peacekeepers. 

Just because we give people advice on how to improve the lives, doesn't mean that we have a moral obligation to send our troops there when they ignore that advice and start killing each other. That is THEIR resposibility, no ours.  If they want better lives they should stop killing each other to when they have problems. Whats more even if we wanted to intervene, we couldn't afford to enforce peace in every conflict in the world. We simply have to pick and choose which ones we go into and of course first and foremost we are going to pick ones where it is in our national interest to do so. There are exceptions (Balkens, Timor) but that is by and large the way things are.
 
I'd also note that even when we do intervene for humanitarian reasons we still get professional whingers complaining about arrogent Western imperialists. The utter bullsh1t that was perpetuated about the Howard government when they acted to ensure law and order in the Solomons is proof of that.

I don't believe that at all, I should have clarified it better.  I realise that their is no point at all pumping billions into economic development if it's just going to be blown up later, but, there needs to be a much greater emphasize placed on it.  Also, hopefully when the situation is stable, then there will be a snowball effect as more and more Iraqis get more and better paying jobs and the economy starts to boom (oil prices certainly will help).

I don't think it is news to anybody that economic development aid is important in conflict-proofing societies. However, I don't know how you can argue that there is inadequte effort put into it, unless you have some numbers to back up your arguement. Also since you seem to accept that security is a pre-requisite for aid working doing any good, your suggestion of drawing down the military commitment in order to increase aid doesn't look viable to me.
 
Out of interest, take a look at this link. The subject of the interview, a British Afghanistan expert living in Kabul, actually thinks we should be reducing aid to Afghanistan and targetting it better in the more secure areas (mainly the non-Pashtun areas in the north I'd imagine). He seems to think that we should be letting the war torn areas sort themselves out and limiting our military action to containing terrorist activity that threatens us, mainly through special forces action. Its a big call and very different to what Kilcullen is advocating, but given that this bloke lives there and given that his arse is on the line if it goes wrong, he might be worth listening to.
 
> />
How's Canberra treating you btw?  Nice and cold I bet, have been thinking about possibly moving there if I can get some work in the public service in a few years, would love to buy a smallish property outside of Canberra; 5-20 acres would be good.  Got any recommendations? :)

Canberra is going along just swimmingly thanks. I just got a promotion into another agency and I'm going to the States for five weeks in September/October, so life is good. It's amazing how quickly you can get promoted out of a graduate program here, if you have the balls to go for it and play your cards right. I would definately recommend going through the grad program path though, as you get to see how a number of areas in your Department work, you get an instant group of friends in their 20's and early 30's when you arrive (a big deal, its a hard town to meet people) and you get a lot of contacts.
 
As for properties that size outside of  Canberra, a lot of people seem to settle in Murrumbaten (about 30 km out of town, in country NSW) or Yass (about 60km, if you don't mind a bit more of a drive).

 
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Aussiegunneragain    PS   8/8/2008 10:47:46 PM
FO,
If you want to ask any more questions about Canberra, feel free to email me. Yours is on my old computer which is broken down, but I think you have mine. It may have changed since you last emailed me, but it is the same word with a 1 on the end of it and it is at hotmail rather that optusnet.
 
 
 
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