Monday, November 27, 2006


What Now?

The Iraq war is still George W. Bush's balliwick. He's the President, and he controls the military, Pentagon, and affiliated agencies. Dems can pretty much play the blame game for domestic political gain, because despite winning Congress, they still have no real power. But what if they did? Both The New Republic and George Packer at the the New Yorker consider this and come to the same conclusion--they may have been wrong about the war, but that doesn't mean we should return to Kissinger's old realpolitik. The editors at the New Republic:
Many Democrats have embraced a proposal called "phased redeployment," a politically expedient way of saying immediate withdrawal. Their proposal, which calls for departures beginning in four to six months, doesn't allow the time and space for the arduous work that a political settlement requires--the kind of agreement that will ultimately allow us to leave with the least damage to the Iraqi people and our own interests. Proponents of "redeployment" might argue that the president will enact any new course as ineptly as he did before--a very reasonable fear. But, having achieved new majorities, the Democrats must use their oversight capability to ensure that this does not happen.
Packer, who also writes for TNR, is even more pointed:
The argument that Iraq would be better off on its own is a self-serving illusion that seems to offer Americans a win-win solution to a lose-lose problem. Like so much about this war, it has more to do with politics here than reality there. Such wishful thinking (reminiscent of the sweets-and-flowers variety that preceded the war) would have pernicious consequences, as the United States fails to anticipate one disaster after another in the wake of its departure: ethnic cleansing on a large scale, refugees pouring across Iraq’s borders, incursions by neighboring armies, and the slaughter of Iraqis who had joined the American project.
Believe it or not, I agree with both. The problem is that, failing a pull-out, we are left with the lose-lose situation Packer describes. He suggests bringing together factional leaders and threaten them with our not pulling out if they don't shape up. That's one element of the solution, but it's impossible to imagine a fuller answer not including the international community. NATO, the UN, a coalition of the US's selection--parties not compromised in Iraq like factional leaders or the US.

Where Packer and TNR fall down, again, is their belief that the US can solve these problems. They decry "realism" in the Kissinger mode, but until they relinquish this absurd notion that somehow it is in the US's power to "fix" Iraq, the realistic realism they seek will remain elusive.

Let's say you were the President, what would you do?


Absent Mindful said...

Dropped into that situation, I would order all troops back to their bases, step up air reconnaisance, and tell the Iraqis that we'll guard their oil fields, but that's it. Pull out Kellogg, Brown & Root, evacuate foreigners and aid workers, and tell the Iraqis that we fucked up, but we'll protect their natural resources until someone who's going to benefit their country steps up and asks for the keys. The next day, POOF, all the soldiers can go home.

Fantasy calls for fantasy.

Chuck Butcher said...

Get the troops & contractors out just exactly as quickly as can be done without getting them killed. Oh, starting this evening.

The fantasy is that leaving 2,5,7, 20 years from now will appreciably change the outcome. Without dealing with the Kurds, this fight is 2nd generation Islam old - like 1300 years old.

Chuck Butcher said...

Welcome Back

Jeff Alworth said...

Chuck, I appreciate your position--it's more or less what the Dems have been saying for a year now. I am amenable to this argument if the dichotomy is between Americans in or Americans out. But I think the resolution could be quite different if you're comparing International community in versus everyone out. I think it's only reasonable to pull some of the US forces out if you replace them with forces from other countries.

But far more importantly, it can't just be the troops. American (mis)leadership must also give way to genuine partnership with other countries on how to manage this mess. We're the problem; we're not the solution, either by pulling out or staying the course.

Chuck Butcher said...

You make the assumption, which I might debate, that Iraqis want ANYBODY there. If you are right, something other than absolute disaster might happen, if you're wrong, it'll just be other people in the line of fire. I don't think you'd find many takers.

That's the crux to me, GWB screwed that place to a fare-thee-well and thinking somebody else wants a part of it may be giving international empathy a little too much credit. If there were a chance of some real profit...

Despite appearances, I'm a pretty nice guy and quite empathetic and I've lived with Iraqis - they don't print the kind of money it'd take to get me to do good works there. Maybe judging from myself makes me too harsh a critic; nah.

Jeff Alworth said...

You make the assumption, which I might debate, that Iraqis want ANYBODY there.

My assumption is actually that they wouldn't stay in a hate-fueled revolt if the force was an international coalition. There are too many players with too much vested interest to try to form a plan that pleases the Iraqis (one of the mistakes Bush made was thinking "freedom" would unite the Iraqis).

And while I don't think an international coalition would be easy to put together, I think other nations have a pretty serious vested interest in preventing an Iraqi civil war. If the Shia majority in Iraq start strong-arming the Sunnis, the greater Middle East Sunni majority might take an interest in getting involved. Preventing a regional war is not a bad incentive. I fear that's what we're looking at.

Absent Mindful said...

No problem. The Shias in Iran will help out the Iraqis. A couple of nukes in Saudi Arabia should fix things.