On Iraq Withdrawal and Iraq Future

At its September 4 meeting, the City Council passed a resolution favoring a timetable for comprehensive withdrawal of all troops from Iraq, with all votes affirmative except for Demro’s abstention.

This is an OK idea, but . . .Let me make clear my views on the matter: The Iraq War is a total disaster, politically, militarily and morally. Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents, as I have said before in print. (He may escape being the absolutely worst because he has moderated his views to accord more with his opponents, e.g. on North Korea.)

We are well advised to note just how much of a disaster the Iraq War is, and in particular how deep the cancer lies. The war is a product of the Bushist viewpoint, which is arrogant, self-righteous, sanctimonious and narrow-minded (to list a few of the adjectives that apply). Our primary concern should be to insure that Bushism is thoroughly discredited, now and forever. (Of course, we thought the Vietnam War had accomplished that job, but the American people are prone to forget, especially when suffering from post-9/11 PTSD.)
Bush, of course, is trying to prevent this from happening. He wants to leave office trailing glory, and there is a danger he could succeed in either of two opposite ways:

1) At the end of his stay, he might claim that U.S. efforts would have succeeded if his hands had not been tied by a Democratic Congress that would not provide the troop levels necessary to “do the job.” (This of course ignores questions such as lack of political progress, but Bush seems to be good at sweeping such thoughts under the rug.) In other words, our loyal troops were stabbed in the back by weak-willed and mushy-minded Democratic politicians. (Don’t laugh. This is what happened in Germany after its World War I defeat. I also seem to hear echoes of Vietnam.)

2) Or he can lay out his statistics at the end of his term and claim that U.S. forces have made substantial progress toward reducing violence – substantial enough to constitute victory on his watch and provide his successor a clear route to total success. (Again, ignoring political failures etc.)

If Bush can sell the American public on either of these propositions (or some part of each), then America is liable to being hurt in a way that is deeper and longer-lasting than the immediate effects of keeping our troops in Vietnam.
That is why our primary effort should be to insure that he cannot make either of these propositions stick.

Congress is faced with the difficult task of navigating between too much and too little – between allowing the war to continue unabated and tightening up so much that they appear to give substance to Bush’s criticisms. (Keeping in mind, also, that withdrawal of all or most troops will probably be followed by bloody civil war.)

And all of must make sure that the ugly facts about the war – facts which Bush suppresses – are illuminated for our fellow citizens. We must show in clear light the lack of political progress and the ways in which the war has been a catastrophe no matter what happens in the future – the civilian casualties, the external and internal refugees, the kindling of religious hatreds, the ravaging of the economy (including loss of much of the middle class). All this must not be lost from view.

And we must make sure that that strong alternatives to Bushism prevail in the future. In part, this means intellectual activity – helping to build a foreign policy that will navigate through the multitudinous problems in the Middle East and the rest of the world and will never lead U.S. into another Iraq. More immediately, this means working to insure that our next president will be one who rejects Bushism and extricates us from Bush’s mess in Iraq with as little lost blood and lost honor as possible.

So ordinances such as Lakewood’s are all right, but they don’t get to the heart of the problem, either immediate or long-range. Those who oppose the war in all its aspects must be careful to consider all angles and not to get out-maneuvered.

Much has been made of the fact that local tribal leaders, in Anbar Province and other unspecified places, have turned against Al-Qaida in Iraq and joined forces with the U.S. This is not a military success – it did not occur by force of arms – but a political one. The move was freely chosen by the tribal leaders, apparently in part because of the theocratic regime that Al-Qaida tried to impose.

But how much of a political success is it? Bushies hail it as the start of a “bottom-up” approach. Well, I can understand the “bottom” part – it’s at the lowest government level. But what does the “up” consist of? How do the tribal leaders help to bring about reconciliation throughout the nation? Will they stage a coup d’etat and form a national government of unity? Hardly. Then will they join with their Shi’ite countrymen in other provinces (Anbara is almost totally Sunni) to achieve unity? Not likely either. More probably they will use the aid they get from the U.S., and the fact that Al-Qaida in Iraq is cleared from the table, to strengthen their position in coming conflicts against the Shi’ites.

So apparently all the Anbar conversion does is to lessen one type of conflict and resistance by strengthening another.

Read More on Minding the Issues
Volume 3, Issue 19, Posted 4:06 PM, 09.14.2007