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August 18, 2005

Iraq

-- by Dave Johnson

Comments (edited to make me look better) I left to the Left Coaster post Jeopardy – the Iraq edition:

I think just leaving is actually the worst of all solutions for a number of reasons. The first is legal - we broke it we fix it - occupying powers are responsible for security so it would be illegal for us to just leave. When we say "they" don't want us there, who do we mean? Iraq is not a "they" it is millions of individuals with different interests and concerns. (Most Americans mean brown people when they think of any "they" anywhere...)

The second is thinking about what happens if we do leave. Civil war will kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. So would chaos. An Islamic Republic would enslave the women. The most likely result is Iran takes over the Shiite terrirories - and the oil.

And, frankly, we must not leave behind a determined enemy with all the resources of an oil-rich nation-state. When we invaded it was not that, but it could be that now.

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And out of that chaos will come a national security nightmare that we can not now even imagine.

And if the US does cut and run with those results "the left" will be blamed for decades.

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My "position" on Iraq is that we should send as many troops as is needed to restore order, allow them to develop a stable government and rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq. That is my position.

This would require a draft, and taxes sufficient to pay for the effort (incuding reconstructing Iraq.) If we instead ask the UN to take over, we should be the ones who pay for their forces and the reconstruction.

I know it will never happen, but this is the legal, moral and responsible thing to do. WE - Bush in our name - invaded the country, destroyed its stability (maybe now people understand why Iraq had such a tyrannical regime) and destroyed its infrastructure.

I do not advocate any other position. If we are going to cut and run and allow Iraq and the region to descend into murderous chaos, let that be on the head of Bush and the Right who brought this on.

Advocating cutting and running is advocating letting the Republicans off the hook and offering to shoulder the blame in their place.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 18, 2005 9:10 AM

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Comments

I think you ought to let the Republicans be the ones to come out for conscription first.

Posted by: s9 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 10:56 AM

I completely agree with that.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 11:29 AM

Staying one second later than NOW implies that our presence there during that second can do some -- ANY -- good. Good for Iraq or good for the US or good for the world. It is absolutely certain that's false.

So your argument devolves into a Rovian calculation that we can do evil that will somehow benefit "us".

If that's your suggestion for demos, fine. As long as we understand.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 12:22 PM

'Staying one second later than NOW implies that our presence during that second can do some - ANY - good. Good for Iraq or good for the US or good for the world. It is absolutely certain that's false.'
Could not agree more, 'richard'! And I must disagree with you here, Dave!

Posted by: belga [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 1:01 PM

I'm afraid that all of the above is going to happen anyway, no matter how long we stay in Iraq or what we do. Daddy Bush had enough sense to know what the outcome would be if he took down Saddam, so he didn't do it. His son had to show off and show up Daddy.

Since we don't know who the "insurgents" are, we can't really win without killing everybody. I keep asking what happened to the Iraqi army, and why we can't seem to get a real Iraqi military trained enough to take over so we can leave. I suspect that the answer is that the former Iraqi army is what we're now fighting, and we can't get enough Iraqis trained because they don't wanna do it. So we either put in enough of our own troops to stifle any objections, assuming that's actually possible, and sit there until everyone dies of old age, or we admit defeat and back out sooner or later, just like Vietnam. Not pleasant alternatives.

In any case for better or worse Iraq belongs to the Iraqis. We can't shove a constitution down their throats that suits us. That's becoming obvious. Those who want to align with Iran are obviously going to do that. Those who want an Islamic theocracy are going to do that, too; the question seems to be mostly which kind if Islamic theocracy, since Islam has as many sects as Christianity and ultimately the basis for civil war lurks in this issue. The longer we keep meddling in their affairs, the closer we come to bombing Iraq back into the stone age, which is pretty much what the Russians accomplished in Afghanistan before they pulled out of there.

I admire Dave's optimism that we can actually fix what we broke, but the moral of the Humpty Dumpty ditty is that you can't necessarily fix everything you break. We learn about Humpty Dumpty in childhood, but we never seem to get the message.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 1:13 PM

Everyone is missing my point.

Bush is going to cut and run. Then he is going to be looking for someone to pin the blame the consequences on. We shouldn't be out there volunteering to take that on. Since Bush is going to do what he is going to do, we should be advocating the RIGHT thing. The right thing is not to go into the china ship with a hammer, and then think it's OK if we "withdraw."

Just a minute ago I saw a car accident. A guy plowed into the back of a car stopped at a light, injuring the family in the car. Should he just "withdraw" now? Will that make everything OK?

That's what Bush is getting ready to do -- just in time for the 06 elections.

Republican Ford pulled out of Vietnam, and the Democrats took the blame. Ever since then the Repubicans have been able to portray the Democrats as the party that lost the Vietnam war because they were advocating withdrawal.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 1:57 PM

What part of "the insurgency is a product of the U.S. presence" do you not understand Dave? Most of the small level of support they have among the greater populace is due to "nationalist" sentiments... eliminate the occupation, and you eliminate the "excuse" for terrorism - and the outrage produced by the terror will be directed against the terrorists, instead of the occupation.

Do you really think that the "insurgents" (almost all Sunni) are capable of mounting an organized military campaign of occupation and governance, especially outside of Sunni strongholds? That they'll be able to dictate terms to the Kurds in the north, or the Shi'ttes in the south?

What "good" can continued occupation possibly accomplish? I just don't see it. All our presence does is aggravate the situation. A million soldiers in the field (and two million "behind the lines") wouldn't be enough to prevent the "insurgents" from continuing their activities. This is Vietnam all over again - unlimited resources, unlimited numbers of troops, completely ineffective.

Further, to be utterly ruthlessly pragmatic, if Iraq falls to pieces and everything you say will happen, does... it STILL isn't worth the investment that has been and will be required. Simply put, the same money invested in almost any other endeavor is likely to produce greater social good, alleviate more human suffering, and produce greater human and civil liberties, than continuing the occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: Thomas Leavitt [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 2:00 PM

By the way - the blame from the right has already started. (And here)

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 2:21 PM

"What part of "the insurgency is a product of the U.S. presence" do you not understand Dave?""

The insurgency is doing a lot more to target opposing Iraqi factions than Americans.

"What part of "the insurgency is a product of the U.S. presence" do you not understand Dave?"

So you're calling for anhialation of the Sunnis by the Shites? That's one of the possibilities if we pull out.

"A million soldiers in the field (and two million "behind the lines") wouldn't be enough to prevent the "insurgents" from continuing their activities."

Actually a million probably would calm things down. Do you think Bush would do that?

"This is Vietnam all over again - unlimited resources, unlimited numbers of troops, completely ineffective."

In Vietnam the opposition was a nation-state, supplied by Russia.

But you are missing the point of what I am saying.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 2:26 PM

"Simply put, the same money invested in almost any other endeavor is likely to produce greater social good, alleviate more human suffering, and produce greater human and civil liberties, than continuing the occupation of Iraq."

Is that what you expect Bush will do with the money after he cuts and runs next year?

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 2:27 PM

"In Vietnam the opposition was a nation-state, supplied by Russia." Your wrong there Dave. It was an insurgency from day one when they were trying to kick out the French. There were soldiers from the north but outside the major cities the entire country was involved. We are such a giganitic part of the problem in Iraq we can contribute nothing towards making it stable. All hell is breaking loose there now and will never end as long as there is an American presence. The Iraqi factions are going to fight it out at some point. As soon as we leave they can get started.

Posted by: Ron In Portland [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 3:07 PM

I'm almost "militantly anti-imperialist"— if such a phrase can be turned out in a way that makes sense— and I was four-square against the Iraq Wars™, both #1 and #2. I was even deeply skeptical about the operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

That said, here's my position on Iraq: the U.S. and British troops (and their minor affiliates from various clients), as well as all the quasi-military and private sutlerage companies, need to begin making an orderly withdrawal of forces immediately, and it should not be any slower than force protection requires. At the same time, the U.S. and Britain need to start sending regular quarterly payments, totaling into the hundreds of billions of dollars in grant money— not loans, not loan guarantees, grants— into the absolute control of whatever heinous, miserable, anti-Western, Islamic dictatorship (or dictatorships) arise in the vacuum created by the withdrawal.

I call this the "you break it, you pay for it" theory. We clearly can't fix it. Hell, we're going to have to go even further into hock just to pay for getting somebody else to fix it.

Do I think this proposal will be seriously considered? Absolutely not. Even most Americans who want to see U.S. troops withdrawn are nauseated by the prospect of really funding the Iraqi reconstruction out of the U.S. treasury. Why, that might involve paying more tax and enduring higher interest rates.

Good grief, Muffy— those liberals are going to bankrupt our way of life!

Posted by: s9 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 3:30 PM

"The Iraqi factions are going to fight it out at some point. As soon as we leave they can get started."

How any civilians will die as a result? I'm concerned about the civilian casualties of this whole thing. How many did Bush kill? You just made a strong argument for not leaving until we reduce factional differences.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 4:47 PM

Agree w/most everything you said.

Additionally if it were up to me I would completely dismantle CPA mechansims and void all their contracts. I'd assemble internationally respected commision to oversee new ones. I'd write rules protecting Iraqi's interests, and after honest investigation explicitly denounce neo-cons "free market" experiment.

Oh ya... I'd kik Chalabi's ass back to other end of the continent (anybody know if Jordon issued the pardon he requested?).

Posted by: JDMcKay [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 5:12 PM

...not leaving until we reduce factional differences.

Dave, your thinking would be magical if it weren't completely nonsensical.

As for your main point -- that democrats have to advocate policies to appear tough and avoid repug criticism -- is a violation of your prime directive: don't weaken yourself out of fear that Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about you. Rush Limbaugh will recrucify Jesus if comes back wearing a No War for Oil button. And you know it. Demo support for the war was (and alas still is, the idiots) based on that "gotta look tough or they'll say bad things about us" weakness. It really surprises me that you of all people are adopting a literally insane position out of the same kind of cowardice of which you are usually so well aware and critical.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 5:47 PM

That is not my main point. I'm saying that cutting and running is just wrong. Also it makes not difference what we advocate because Bush is just going ahead with his own plans, so we shouldn't put ourselves in the position of shouldering the blame for what he does.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 6:26 PM

What are you saying Dave? Are you saying that nobody will take our advice anyway so we should just demand that he fix it right away and then stand back loudly putting the responsibility for getting it right with the same people who mucked it up so bad?

Do we start having protests with signs that say "President Bush, fix this mess now?"

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 8:38 PM

President Bush, clean up your mess!

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 8:44 PM

I agree...mostly.



No, the Democrats should not be making blanket withdrawal requests. Dave is 100% right about the consequences of such proposals (although I would argue that we are too far gone and "liberals" will be the fall guys no matter what).



What Democrats should be arguing is that we have 2 choices.



Choice A is to "win". We can commit the money, bodies, and resources to get the job done. And, no, I do not believe it is impossible at this point, although it would be hugely difficult. A draft would not be necessary, but massive tax increases would be.



Democrats should make clear that they will only support Choice A if Bush takes several affirmative steps that will be necessary to give us a prayer of success: (1) Fire Rumsfeld and the rest of the DoD civilian hacks, (2) provide U.S. troops with the equipment they need NOW, (3) bring in less suspicious (Egyptian, Pakistani, Jordanian, etc.) military and police for security and to give regional states an incentive to bring stability to Iraq, (4) declare the U.S. has no intention to keep permanent bases in Iraq, (5) protect Iraq's oil assets from being stolen, and (6) create an oversight commission that will investigate the billions of dollars that have been stolen and prevent similar occurrances from happening in the future.



Choice B is to "lose". If Bush refuses to pick Choice A, then we should pull out. Yes, all the bad things that Dave mentioned will likely occur. Yes, we will be responsible because we broke it. No, Democrats should not protect the GOP by prending that this is "declaring victory and leaving". Choice B is losing. Democrats should make it clear that Bush made Choice B necessary because he refused to pick Choice A.



Actually, there is a Choice C: to "stay the course". We will still lose but it will be costlier than Choice B because thrown good money after bad and let Americans die unnecessarily. This is Bush's choice.



As much as I wish that Howard Dean was right that Democrats shouldn't be required to put forth a plan, I think they need to. They need to propose Choice A. They need to make very, very, very clear to Americans that there was a "different course" that we could have taken in Iraq and "Bush chose not to take that course."



If Democrats give people the impression that the only choices are Choice B or Choice C, then they will shoulder the blame for Iraq for decades.

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 9:03 PM

Space, you know the President does not listen to anyone with a different opinion, giving him one enables him to shift the blame.

Mr. Smartiepants had to have every single thing his own way and look at what he created. Mr. Smartiepants will continue to have everything his own way, why not say this is what we think..., but the President has made all the choices thus far so we trust that he knows how to fix them within the time frame he specified before the war began.

Give him the responsibility, let America know that we hold him responsible and expect him to fix it.

We will end up cleaning up the mess anyway, but people will know who is responsible.

I'm sorry those people had to die; it was not my choice. I am powerless to change it.

President Bush is the only person who can do anything about it.

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 18, 2005 10:11 PM

Ok. Dave, you say that Bush will do whatever he's gonna do anyways, regardless of what the Democrats say, so the Dems should advocate a fairy-tale solution to the Iraq Debacle.

I would first of all disagree on your initial assumption. Most of the political pressure for withdrawal comes from the idea that Republicans will suffer electoral losses in upcoming elections. I would say those losses will come against Democrats who make the Iraq War an issue. To do so, Dems need to take a counter-stand against whatever the President has done with the war. This counter-stand will usually mean addressing and promoting withdrawal of some sort. If you take that arrow out of the Democratic Party's quiver and toss it aside, you weaken Democratic chances in '06 and beyond. A more nuanced call for withdrawal is full of landmines, especially since the media wars heavily favor the Republicans. This necessitates a clear and unmistakeable call for withdrawal. This is where many politicians have already positioned themselves.

In essence, Dave, your plan could relieve the political pressure on Bush to withdraw in the first place, mitigate any future criticism of Bush for waiting so long to withdraw, and create an image of Bush doing the 'right' thing, with no political pressure from the opposition. This is terrible.

Next, putting aside whether or not Iraq is 'fixable,' I'll address the politics of promoting such an idea. First of all, it again directly betrays the base of the current Democratic Party. Betrayal of the base has many, many negative consequences. I do not feel the need to list the consequences here of all places. This is terrible.

Second, 'fixing' Iraq is not necessarily the right thing to do, but it is definitely the upright thing to do. In politics, the upright image is a winning image. Good. On the other hand, I don't think it's the right thing to do. Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again. Overall, this is a good.

Finally, it's quite clear to me that the Democratic Party will be blamed for withdrawal by the Right no matter what. I repeat, No Matter What. It was bound to happen the second the "radical left" opposed going into Iraq. What you're proposing, Dave, is to simply give the Right's noise machine a slightly smaller target. The problem with that plan is that it won't change the outcome. When the Left builds its own equivalent noise machine, your plan will be much more viable. This is just an observation of the current state of media affairs.

Those are my initial thoughts.

Posted by: Bribes [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 12:57 AM

Oh.

Since common wisdom says the first person to say 'draft' gets smacked with a two-by-four, I want to present a counter-argument.

As long as 'draft' and 'increase taxes' are firmly attached to Bush and Bush memes, Democrats can say it all they want. Bush doesn't have to say those words for those words to be attached to him. Simply make Bush, the Terror War, drafts, and taxes equivalent. For example, "Staying the course means drafting our youth." "Billions in Iraq is billions in taxes." "Bush policies lead directly to a draft."

The key is to control the headlines. To do that, a short, easily repeatable and oft repeated phrase with the words "Bush" in combination with "draft" are needed. One phrase a day.

This is a trickier and more dangerous path, but the fruits are plentiful. It is especially dangerous because the media landscape tilts against the Dems, but Rove has already proven that direct, fearless assault on the strongest positions of your enemies can work. Rove attaches weaknesses to his enemy's strength. Taxes and drafts should be attached to Bush's strength (executing the Terror War).

Posted by: Bribes [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 1:27 AM

"Ok. Dave, you say that Bush will do whatever he's gonna do anyways, regardless of what the Democrats say, so the Dems should advocate a fairy-tale solution to the Iraq Debacle."

No, I'm saying that because Bush will do whatever he's gonna do anyway ANY position the Dems take is a "fairy-tale" solution, so they should be advocating the RIGHT solution.

I'm saying tht the RIGHT solution is to turn it over to the UN and finance bringing in sufficient forces to bring stability, and finance the reconstruction.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2005 9:09 AM

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