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June 17, 2005

Impossible Dreamers

-- by Gary Boatwright

I started to post a comment to Dave's argument that we have a legal and moral responsibility to Iraq. It became too longwinded, so I am turning it into a separate argument. My title applies equally to both sides of the conversation we need to have on the left.

Moral and legal responsibility are nice words, but how do you apply them to an immoral war and an impossible situation? Unfortunately, we may not be able to prevent an Iraqi civil war. If the presence of American troops exacerbates religious and nationalist fervor, the best solution may be immediate withdrawal, even if it leads to civil war in Iraq.

Until we have a serious conversation in America about various exit strategies, we will never know if a "successful resolution" of the Iraq war is possible. The problem with all current analysis is that the assumption of the pottery barn rule locks in a continued American military presence until an undefineable "success" is achieved. The Middle East has never known peace or respite from intense religious warfare. The Middle East may never know peace or respite from intense religious warfare. Does the presence of American troops encourage or restrain religious warfare in Iraq?

Of course conservative warmongers will blame Democrats. With all due respect, that argument sounds like a variation of the contention that Howard Dean should avoid speaking the truth about Republicans because Rush Limbaugh will lie about what he said. To this day conservatives blame Democrats and the M$M for Pol Pot and genocide in Cambodia. It doesn't matter that the Vietnam war itself, forcing Vietnamese troops into a once tranquil country and illegal bombing caused the destruction of traditional social and political life in Cambodia.

The quagmire in Iraq requires rational thought and analysis absent any consideration for conservative reaction or demagoguery. Our moral and legal responsibility to Iraq should not and cannot be tinged with fear of political demagoguery from the WSJ editorial page and The Weekly Standard. Moral and legal responsibility, caged in by fear of conservative criticism, diminishes the moral principles that need to be unleashed and examined.

We need to begin a private dialogue on the left of what our options are for meeting genuine moral and legal responsibilities. The sad truth may be that our choice is a disastrous withdrawal in fifteen years or a disastrous withdrawal in two years.

The dialogue about our moral and legal responsibility needs to include the serious points raised by Robert Kuttner in his American Prospect article The Universe Next Door. I would even expand the universe Kuttner describes of domestic objectives that we could be achieving instead of wasting precious American lives and our national treasure in Iraq. For example, a rational foreign policy could theoretically be positively engaged in addressing genocide in Darfur. A rational foreign policy could easily be more seriously engaged in tsunami relief.

I'm all in favor of a rational dialogue about what our moral and legal responsibilities in Iraq. I suggest we have the conversation without consideration for the inevitable conservative diatribe. Let the conversation continue . . .

Posted by Gary Boatwright at June 17, 2005 11:02 PM

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Comments

Just get out. Now. Before we start down the road to a civil war in THIS country.

Posted by: jon st at June 18, 2005 3:40 AM

I feel we are responsible for the mess in Iraq and want to fix what we broke, but I can't help feeling the longer we stay, the longer we keep these poor people from achieving some sort of normalcy in their lives. We stole close to three generations from the Vietnamese, I'd hate to see that happen in Iraq. That's not even counting the toll it will take back here.

Posted by: The Fixer at June 18, 2005 4:19 AM

Other countries with their own cultures and religions do not want our condescending, christian, always profit motivated 'we'll bomb your home town if you don't like it' style of benevolence.
America is tolerated because it is rich and powerful.
Go down the road of 'we can't leave now until we make nice in Iraq.'
Let's see, I guess first we have to continue killing 'insurgents' until the only people left are the millions who really love us right? You know, 'insurgents' are like social misfits and it's ok that we kill them. It's not like they are freedom fighters, you know, people fighting for Boise Idaho against a foreign army. That can't be it because of course as we all know everybody loves Americans.
We Americans have a lot of bad john wayne ww2 movie clips running in our heads. We have to snap out of it. I'll even waste caps on this: WE ARE HATED in many parts of the world and war will not make us safer only more hated.
The U.S. needs a new mission statement and it needs to be written by it's own citizens once they realize they will survive without uncle sams 'think for me feeding tube.' Let the neocons run Amtrak. Fascists always run great rail roads. But keep them away from this battered jingoistically fatigued and confused America and certainly away from poor countries that have the bad luck of existing over our SUV soylent green.

Posted by: Niall McGinnis at June 18, 2005 5:13 AM

Agree, Gary. Honestly, a question I don't see addressed very often is this: If we withdraw, what then? We don't have to end it simply with withdrawal. We could still give aid. If there's a civil war, we could help make peace via the U.N. (not least by simply not getting in the way with our veto). We could give aid via third-parties and NGOs. We could work to stabilize the region by working on the Palestinian/Isreali conflict. We could take a less agressive, and at the same time more agressive stance (now that we would have military options again) with Iran. We could address North Korea, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan on better terms. We could do all sorts of things once we get our troops and our political will de-quagmired from Iraq. Freeing ourselves from Iraq opens up many other moves. What are they?

Posted by: Bribes at June 18, 2005 7:28 AM

We must get out while we can still organize an orderly withdrawal. Otherwise we will be evacuating off the top of our embassy or even worse, mass desertions.

We don't have an army. No one will fight this war. We need to withdraw while we still have enough of an army to fight the war in Afghanistan.

Posted by: Alice Marshall at June 18, 2005 8:26 AM

I am still waiting for the reasoned demonstration that the American presense in Iraq is a net security benefit for the Iraqi people. Lots of people simply assume the premise, but is it true?

A bunch of Pottery Barn advocates are the same people who advised going shopping in an armored Humvee to begin with. Why exactly would I start listening to them now?

Convince me that more Iraqis would be dying if the US pulls out and then maybe we can begin to talk about whether that would support the continuing loss of American lives. But frankly a lot of this talk just resonates of the "White Man's Burden". "Just imagine if we WEREN'T there" they say.

There is a line of thinking that has the US being so competent in every single sphere that it made sense to import US truck drivers at $100k and turn over simple reconstruction of schools over to Bechtel. I don't buy it.

Prove to me that the US is actually adding security value. And pro-war folk need to keep in mind that certain anti-war folks got it right going in. And it was not because we didn't support the troops, I was screaming about boys and girls coming home in boxes before the first boy or girl came home in a "transfer tube".

There is a substantial overlap between the "stay the course" crowd and the pro-war Dems that were so insistent back in February 2003 that I simply didn't understand the first thing about modern warfare. I ask my question again "Why should I listen to you now?"

Posted by: Bruce Webb at June 18, 2005 9:57 AM

In my view, the question of whether Iraq will slip into civil war if we leave is not worth discussing except in the most hypothetical terms.

We're building permanent bases there. Why? Because we're not leaving. We have no intention of leaving. And that's sad fact number one.

Sad fact number two: Iraq is slipping into civil war because that's the way we want it. Why? Because the worse the violence gets, the more 'reason' we have to stay.

Here are a few links you might find utterly revolting:

Sick Strategies for Senseless Slaughter


State Sponsored Civil War

Posted by: Winter Patriot at June 18, 2005 9:19 PM

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