So the way the dialogue about what to do in Iraq is being carried out bothers me.
I have a lot of trouble getting past the idea that we shouldn’t have gone in to begin with. I feel lots of anger at the Bushites over this war of choice. It’d be interesting to tally up the number of civilian dead over the past four years and figure out how it compares to the number of people Saddam Hussein killed during his reign. Comparisons like that are almost always nonsensical – but it does erode one’s ability to seize high moral ground when explaining oneself.
Most of my anger is about the completely dumb-assed single-mindedness with which our government pursued this war. Now that we’re in, and mired in the sectarian violence predicted by Scowcroft and Co in 1991, we act annoyed by the vengeful Shiites we elevated to power in Iraq. We’re somehow surprised that a distinct, long oppressed minority would not welcome a the Sunnis into power. We’re also apparently shocked that destabilizing this country has turned it into a cauldron for terrorists from all over the region. The failure of planning and foresight is stunning, and will take years for us (let alone the Iraqis!) to recover from.
After our withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, there was a natural reluctance on the part of the United States to act boldy on the international stage. The decades-long Vietnam debacle also reinforced the whiny liberal tendency to try to apologize on the national behalf. I resent the President’s putting us in exactly the same position again. We’ve initiated a war which has killed tens of thousands of people, ripped apart the infrastructure of a nation, weakened our national resolve to engage boldly on the international front (particularly with nations like North Korea), and compromised our ability to play as strong a role in the middle east peace process (Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel). It will take years to clean up the mess, and the price paid can never be recouped.
On the other hand, I think it’s utterly irresponsible for Democrats to suggest simply washing our hands of the situation. We have a responsibility to pursue a peace which rebuilds Iraq from the inside and helps to stabilize the region. This may not be possible, but we cannot walk away. In addition to being unethical, walking away will marginalize the Democratic chances to lead the country out of this mess. They need to cease governing as opposition and begin to lead. In general, people will vote for the party with ideas, not against a party with bad ideas. "Anyone but Bush" won’t play in 2008, because it just isn’t good enough.
I’d like to see someone suggest a practical and actionable plan which factors in the geopolitical, strategic, tactical, and operational issues. It should involve a concentrated diplomatic effort paired with a period of stabilization, and then a drawdown of troops conditioned on specific milestones. The scary part is that a workable solution may involve a very different Iraqi goverment, if the al-Maliki crowd doesn’t wise up to the notion of fair democracy very soon.
All in all – few good options for the Iraqi people, and for the people vying for elected office. The terrible thing is that is our political world, electability will trump any difficult to sell solution.