Losing Hearts and Minds and Money

A book about the quagmire in Iraq came out a few years ago. It was written by Peter Van Buren, a former government official. It’s about the losing of hearts and minds and lots of money.

I haven’t read the book itself, but came across some discussion about it online. The supposed reconstruction of Iraq sounds like a key example of bureaucracy taking on a life of its own, where having the results looking good on paper became more important than ensuring actual results. Massive amounts of money were thrown around to make it look like something was being accomplished, with large numbers of troops there for almost a decade to help in the process.

Here is the book and some related stuff:

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
by Peter Van Buren (excerpt at Rolling Stone)

Murray Polner, Review of Peter Van Buren’s “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle For the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People” (Metropolitan Books, 2011)

‘We Meant Well’: An Attempt To Rebuild Iraq (NPR audio)

“We Meant Well” by Peter Van Buren (Youtube video)

On a related note, there is a good Wikipedia article on the Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The popular support for the war evaporated and by 2007 most registered voters supported troop withdrawal. The U.S. government had been discussing withdrawal in the last years of the Bush administration with Congress making a decision for withdrawal in 2007 and Bush signing an agreement involving withdrawal in 2008, although Bush had already begun withdrawal in 2007.

Obama, once in office, followed Bush’s official agreement with the Iraqi government. It would have required Obama to break Bush’s agreement for him to have refused the already declared and agreed upon plans for and promises of troop withdrawal. The plans were already set in place and already being implemented before Obama took office. For him to have changed course would have meant not only breaking a formal international agreement but changing the then established US foreign policy toward Iraq that was based on troop withdrawal.

In a Reuters article by the above author, Peter Van Buren, this pessimistic conclusion was given:

As for any sort of brokered settlement among the non-Islamic State actors in Iraq, if 170,000 American troops could not accomplish that in almost nine years of trying, retrying it on a tighter timetable with fewer resources is highly unlikely to work. It is unclear what solutions the United States has left to peddle anyway, or with what credibility it would sell them, but many groups will play along to gain access to American military power for their own ends.

It failed the first time around — according to Van Buren, it was a failure early on because of lack of leadership, seemingly because of the false assumption by the Bush administration that all it takes to win a war is large numbers of troops and large piles of money. Power and wealth. There is no evidence that leadership has improved over time.

I would add that winning the Iraq War, in the traditional sense of winning, may never have been the purpose in the first place. Even leaving the country more stable might have always been irrelevant to whatever the agenda was in seeking to maintain hegemony in the Middle East. Maybe simply destabilizing the area was always the purpose, a common strategy by both the US and USSR during the Cold War.

Mission accomplished?

28 thoughts on “Losing Hearts and Minds and Money

    • All these leaks seem to tell us what we already know. I saw that said about the Trump audio, as everyone already knew he is a misogynist. The same goes for this leak, as everyone already knew that Clinton is a two-faced liar, saying one thing to one group and saying something else to another.

      The American public is probably too cynical and apathetic to care at this point, a sad state of affairs. Everyone knows both candidates are worthless pieces of shit. Both candidates call the other candidate disgusting and liars, and both candidates are right.

      Everyone knows and few care. It’s going to have to get horrifically bad before most Americans can muster the moral strength to give a fuck. For the time being, the masses have simply given up on it all and lost any hope of it being different. With endless reasons for moral outrage, people lose the ability to feel moral outrage. Moral failure and disgust becomes the new normal.

    • The only way it could get worse is if Democratic partisans were forced to face the obvious. But the depths of partisan willful ignorance and obtuseness is almost infinite. It’s going to take a shock to the body politic before these kinds of people are shaken awake from their collective trance. OTOH if enough of the growing independents demographic gets outraged enough, the partisans could finally become irrelevant.

    • It was carrot and the stick. The Clinton campaign bribed superdelegates to back her before any serious campaigning had begun. Play the game of the ruling elite and you will be well rewarded. But if you refuse, your career will be ended or worse. It’s old school political corruption and cronyism.

      The only difference is that these leaks have proven what has been going on for a long time. At some point, the dark secrets being brought to light have to begin to change public attitudes. I’m just surprised how many cynical and apathetic most people are in their willingness to accept all of this as normal.

        • People like me feel burned and betrayed by the Democratic Party.

          The leaks don’t just show that Clinton and her campaign are corrupt, deceitful, and manipulative. What was also shown is how the entire DNC is the same way. It’s not just the DNC working closely with Clinton but against Sanders, not to mention the use of the MSM as a propaganda arm of the party. Obama apparently intervening in the FBI investigation doesn’t help.

          I won’t be voting for any Democrat this election. The entire party is damaged goods. I refuse to reward them for their anti-democratic tactics and moral wrongdoing. It’s likely the party has lost an entire generation of voters, the very demographic that they thought they had in their pocket. The ruling elite falsely assumed there would be no consequences to fucking over the American people.

    • Actually there isn’t much of a carrot. It’s more of a “do this or else”.

      Virtually all of the money has gone to Clinton herself:

      Link is slow, but similar conclusions:

      Even the mainstream media is not bothering to disagree on this one.

      • There might not be as much of a carrot as some thought. But she won over support initially because some people believed they were going to be rewarded.

        Still, there are other carrots. People are desperate for power, no matter how many times the dangling carrot is pulled away from them. The carrot is motivating because it seems within reach, whether or not it is. It’s a game of manipulation.

        Even those in power are manipulated by those with even more power. I suspect that presidents as well are controlled by the bureaucratic system they are part of, specifically the deep state. It’s an entire system of control that impacts those caught up in it. Power consumes its own.

        As William S. Burroughs said it, “Control controlled by its need to control”. That is the mindset and fantasy of control. It’s all encompassing. It’s all a game of being controlled and trying to gain the upper hand to control others.

  1. I think that it will be very interesting to watch what happens if Clinton wins. Will the Democratic Partisans try to rationalize her inevitable betrayal or will they recognize that they have been sold out?

    • This inevitable betrayal and the rationalization of it has been going on for a long time. If they haven’t recognized that they have been sold out by now, most of them likely never will. But maybe some of them will wake up, even if slowly and reluctantly. This campaign season has taught me to never underestimate the power of willful ignorance, dissociation, and groupthink.

    • I read some of it and skimmed the rest. None of it was surprising, although of course nauseating. I looked at all the highlights and noticed the one below. Clinton argues that the plutocrats can profit from the fossil fuels that cause climate change and then profit from the market created to deal with climate change. She is a both/and kind of thinker, a true visionary!

      “So I want to see us become the number one oil and gas producer while we also pursue a clean-energy agenda at the same time. I don’t think it has to be either or. I think it’s a mistake to think it does. I happen to think we are missing a great opportunity by not dealing with climate change, not just because it’s a rolling crisis that we’re dealing with, but also I think there’s a lot of money to be made from pioneering and manufacturing and exporting and creating a global market for how we deal with climate change.”

    • It is true that when the ruling elite can easily manipulate the public when they control the political system, economic influence, and the mainstream media. The ruling elite, with such entrenched power, have grown arrogant. They’ve become dependent on the propaganda machine to keep the public in line. Their behavior will bring on their own doom. They’ll be lucky if the only result is another era of populism and progressivism. But the backlash might turn out to be greater than they’re expecting. The public can only be treated as dumb for so long.

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