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June 4, 2005

An Iraq Exit Strategy or Two

-- by Gary Boatwright

Steve Gilliard savages Matthew Yglesias for his fence sitting arm chair pontificating on the "Democrats' Dilemma", The Problem With The Chairbound Set and Mahblog piles on, What's The Matter With The Democrats.

I've run across Iraq exit strategies over at Mercury Rising and at The Left Coaster.

I'm sure it's not perfect, but Mercury Rising has a sensible Iraq exit strategy peculiarly titled The Kerry Plan for Iraq:

There is a better way, but it would require a better US government. The key steps are these.

Trust is broken. It can only be re-established by making it clear that the US presence in Iraq is temporary. Base construction and the looting of the Iraqi oil industry should cease. Oil revenues should be nationalized until a genuine Iraqi government is in place.

The "Salvador option", of supporting death squads and other repressive secret police must cease immediately. People like John Negroponte need to be removed from authority (and ideally sent to replace a declining population in Guantanamo).

US troops should be replaced by Arab/Muslim troops for all police functions. My guess is that there are enough former Egyptian, Jordanian, and Indonesian policemen-- or troops who could be trained for police duties-- to fill the gap within a few months. Then there could be genuine training of an Iraqi police force.

Basic services need to be restored immediately. That means turning over control of the electric grid and water pumping to Iraqi engineers and those engineers need to be provided strong security. Sanitation needs to be restored promptly. US and European medical personnel should temporarily replace Iraqi medical personnel, who the resistance is driving out of the country.

Finally, the puppet government has no credibility. There should be real elections. These should begin at the local level, with all local autonomy being immediately ceded. The US should temporarily handle national control. A preliminary constitution should treat Iraq as a confederacy, in which each region retains veto power over any national constitution.

The US should commit to pay $60B of reparations to rebuild infrastructure and train a new generation of professionals.

US forces are needed to guard Iraq's borders against external rivals such as Iran, to prevent importation of weapons to continue the conflict, and to allow Iraq to gain control over its own commerce, notably oil. There is absolutely no reason for US forces to be searching houses or performing basic police functions.

I think this is what the Kerry plan was. I don't know, of course. But he is intelligent enough to have seen these issues.

If that's Sen. Kerry's exit strategy I wish he'd step forward and say so. What Matt Yglesias calls the Democrats' dilemma is based on a crass political calculus. The leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are all on record supporting the Iraq War and their criticism of Bush's policy has been muted and infrequent.

Biden, Kerry, Hillary and Bayh are all followers of Peter Beinart's "robust liberal militarism" school of thought. They all show every intention of running as military hawks. Bill Clinton and Howard Dean have both recently spouted the official Democratic party line: "Now that we're there, we're there and we can't get out.... I hope the President is incredibly successful with his policy now." The only Democrat that I'm aware of who is taking them to task is Dennis Kucinich, An Open Letter to Howard Dean.

The leading Democratic foreign policy spokespeople can't take a clear stand on Iraq because their conventional political wisdom clashes with the anti-war sentiment in the Democratic party grass/netroots. They are all following the safe and craven advice that what you don't say can't hurt you.

The fundamental problem with their political strategy is that it also prevents them from making a harsh criticism of Bush's abject failure in Iraq. How can you criticize a policy that you want to adopt "with improvements"?

It looks to me like the party leadership has put out the word that debating Iraq is off the table. The leadership is more interested in promoting the veneer of party unity than confronting a politically difficult and emotional problem. The Democratic party leadership has decided that they are not going to make Iraq an issue in the 2006 election.

The political calculus and the non-position position of the Democratic party are both wrong. We need an anti-war Democrat to start beating the drum for an immediate pull-out from Iraq. The anti-war parade has already left the barn and the Democrats are still working on decorating their float. That brings me to CA Pol Junkie at The Left Coaster, The Democrats' Solution to Iraq:

Yglesias' approach doesn't work on either level: it passes off the policy buck to the GOP, who have thus far failed miserably, but it gives voters no reason to put us in power, since we are proposing no leadership. Gilliard's policy may turn out to be as good as any other, but the politics are horrible: we would be running in 2006 saying America is a loser.

So what's the answer? Elect us in 2006 and we'll be out of Iraq within two years. Given control of either the Senate or the House, we could force Bush's hand by denying him funds to continue the war.

Sitting on the fence is not going to be a viable strategy in 2006. How can someone with pretensions of leading America be silent on the most critical issue facing America? Iraq is a military as welll as a moral disaster. It's time for the Democratic leadership to start saying so loudly and forcefully. Now back to CA Pol Junkie:

It is that simple. This approach offers several advantages:

On policy:

- it tells the Iraqis America will not want a permanent presence there, something Bush won't say (for obvious reasons)

- it gives Iraq a firm timeline within which they must take responsibility for security in their own country

- gradually removing our troops will remove a source of conflict in Iraq

- it gives us a strategic goal in the war

On politics:

- it lets us offer a tough love victory scenario to the voters

- it gives voters a chance to get rid of the headache they get every time they watch the nightly news

The one thing the Democratic party absolutely cannot do is remain silent. If they wait two years to develope an Iraq exit strategy, it will be two years too late. Let the conversation continue.


Posted by Gary Boatwright at June 4, 2005 8:24 AM

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Comments

Thanks for your commentary, Gary. I really take a practical view of this matter, since we can't do a damn thing unless we get power. John Kerry's plan is utterly sensible, but he proved it to be unmarketable. A perfect plan is worthless if it can't be implemented, and it can't be implemented if Democrats don't recapture the House and/or the Senate.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie at June 6, 2005 9:32 AM

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