Sunday, June 05, 2005

Democrats and Iraq

In the past few weeks I have seen a lot of discussion regarding the democrats and Iraq and how we need to discuss and address this issue. I've seen some back and forth between Atrios and Matthew Yglasias, and others as well. In particular, there is the tension between pro-war Democrats (who generally have changed their minds) and the long standing anti-war crowd. To my mind the current bickering in not productive and gets in the way of organizing around principals we can agree on, rather than the issues and past decisions that split us apart.

The left generally agrees with the assessment that the current state in Iraq is a mess and the US needs to be thinking about how to extract ourselves from Iraq. However, without a clear plan for what to do as we withdraw, and after, the likelihood is that the withdraw will only be a humiliating defeat and greater disaster for the US. But to my mind the situation could be viewed as being less like Viet Nam, where we just lost, but more like the allies in WWII after Anzio or Market Garden (The Bridge Too Far, for those less familiar with WWII). Whether or not these were good ideas poorly executed or bad ideas from the start have been the subject of debate by historians for years since. However, at the time the main focus of Eisenhower and the general staff was to disengage from the unsuccessful operations and pursue offensive action elsewhere. We need to think of Iraq as a similar failed enterprise and whether Atrios was right to think that it was a bad idea from the get-go or Yglasias that it was a good idea badly executed can be argued by historians (and Atrios and Yglasias) for years to come. What we need now, however, is a plan for extracting ourselves from one failed enterprise while proposing some assertive US policy for advancing our security interests and democracy in general around the world.

For example. We might get behind a plan to extract US forces from Iraq in order to deploy greater forces in Afghanistan. We could argue that Afghanistan is closer to democracy already, it was actually the nexus of terrorism, Ossama is still there, the Taliban is rising, the effort in Iraq are a failure, etc. Obviously, such a plan would require that there be some substantial chance that we could improve things in Afghanistan by sending more troops there. I am also not suggesting that all forces in Iraq be re deployed, the failure in Iraq is in part the stresses on our Military, so those must be relieved to some extent as well. The point is to have a policy which is active and aggressive against our enemies, in some demonstrable way. The problem with post Viet Nam and the problem the democrats have had lately is that we sound not like the Allied high command in the examples I gave above, but more like Hooker after the battle of the Wilderness, simply retreating in failure with no clear plan for the future.

From the political angle, also consider that the American public is growing weary of Iraq. The public would like to have some option that retains the sense of being active and aggressive against these enemies, but would like to get our troops out of Iraq. Should such a plan appeal to the public then Republican efforts to portray it as craven could very well backfire on them. Also, if we can come up with some such forward thinking plan then the likes of Atrios and Yglasias could simply get behind it and the bitter divide could be put off until the lunatics from Texas are no longer in charge.

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