Monday, December 04, 2006

Wrong? Or Just Stupid?

The conventional wisdom now has it that the eee-vill neocons are in full retreat, and the pragmatists and realists are fully dominant. The incoming Democratic congressional majorities and the Bipartisan Iraq Study Group (can't say the ISG without the B on the front!) are supposedly going to straighten out U.S. foreign policy. The grownups are taking charge, whether Little George likes it or not.

I think there's some truth to the conventional wisdom. I expect that the grownups are going to be involved, at least, in Imperial management. And the grownups are not nearly so gratingly stupid as is Dubya. They are nuanced. They are effective managers. They are somewhat efficient.

Regrettably, what they are not is, well ... principled.

Various grownups are prescribing substantial withdrawals of the legions from Iraq:
The debate roiling Washington cuts across partisan divides and has led to some odd bedfellows.

The troop reduction and pullback options suggested by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Nov. 6 memo reflected a convergence between the White House and positions long-advocated by staunch critics of the administration's policy.

Rumsfeld's option to begin modest troop reductions to put pressure on the Iraqi government is very similar to an amendment sponsored by Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who will soon take over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, although the defense secretary resisted the idea of setting a firm timeline.

The parallel between Rumsfeld's favored options and the Democratic agenda is so close that Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect, has all but claimed credit for them. "Look, everything in the Rumsfeld memo is a summary of things that I and others laid out three years ago," Kerry said on CNN on Sunday. "This is rather extraordinary."
I recall hearing this from some of the Sunday teevee talking heads this week, too: withdrawals as a tactic for putting pressure on those accursed Eye-rackies. As the news article suggests, this realism encompasses what would seem to be some highly unlikely right-left combinations. This is golly-gee-whiz amazing -- always assuming that you think the "right" and "left" in modern America are really substantially different. If, however, you simply see two nearly-identical congregations in the Church of Statism, the amazement factor drops off very quickly.

Notice what we don't hear: anyone saying that we ought to get out of Iraq next week because we're wrong to be there. We don't hear anyone saying that what the Iraqis deserve from us is not pressure, but a sincere apology, delivered from over our shoulders while we march, double-time, out of their land.

Yes, everybody's against the war now. But the huge majority of the opponents are against it because it was stupidly mismanaged, or because we weren't sufficiently Klingonesque in prosecuting it (the "glassed-over Iraq" crowd), or because it temporarily made Republicans into a powerful, if befuddled, majority in Washington. For some, the lesson will be "keep the Democrats in power!" Others, remembering the post-Vietnam spin, will be busily preparing the Dolchstosslegende. All of which will pave the way for the next application of the Ledeen Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business." There's no reason to expect the Democrats -- or the realist, grown-up Republicans -- to have any real problem with the application of that doctrine.


Jeff Pruitt said...


There are several Democrats that support a rapid withdrawal from Iraq - Kucinich, Feingold, Kerry, Murtha to name a few (each has their own "plan").

The length of time that defines a "rapid" withdrawal is certainly up for debate. However, I believe most Democratic plans that call for troop redeployment are wary of the fact that withdrawing 140,000 troops cannot be done overnight. And what happens to the troops that are stuck as part of the dwindling contingent - are we putting them in danger unnecessarily by withdrawing to quickly?

And I know, I know, surely there life is in danger if they are NOT redeployed - and I agree with that sentiment. I think my position (and many Democrats on the Hill including those listed above) is that I want the troops removed as quickly as possible while maintaining as much safety for the withdrawing troops as possible. I'm not sure what this time frame would be (some plans call for 6 months) as I'm no expert but I think it's certainly worth some debate.

I think there's a real concern here about the speed of withdrawal that perhaps you are oversimplifying...

Bartleby said...

Jeff, I do not pretend to any expertise about the plausible speed of military withdrawals; although I will say that if I were in that "commander-in-chief" position, I would require some persuasion that the withdrawal should take any longer than the invasion took (days to a few weeks, as I recall).

But that wasn't really my point. My point is that I'm sure American forces will be numerous in Iraq for some period of time unrelated to the safety of their exit. What will drive the duration will be a face-saving exercise for the benefit of our civilian rulers. My other point is that almost no one in American public life is willing to say that we wronged the Iraqis by invading their homeland: that we are, indeed, the "bad guys" and should leave in disgrace. Instead, we get all this "pressure-the-Iraqis" talk, and laments that the towelheads were so recalcitrant and ungrateful to us for our willingness to shoulder the White Man's Burden. In short, we've learned nothing, and will be repeating our stupidity all too soon.