Democrats & Liberals Archives

So Many Choices

The same week polls showed a new high in American disapproval of the Iraq War, we also saw anti-Iraq War challenger Ned Lamont beat Iraq War advocate Joe Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic Primary. This led to an interesting debate in the print media that was completely missed by TV: If the President’s on the wrong track in Iraq, then what are the other options? President Bush would have you believe that the choice is “stay the course” or “cut and run”, but the truth is, there are plenty of other solutions available.

Bush's offering is to "stay the course" as Iraq's rising factional violence leads to the government's disintegration and outright civil war, and US troops are forced to either choose a side or make a fighting retreat. That, of course, is the worst-case scenario, but it's a very real possibility as our highest-ranking military leaders pointed out last week. A couple days later, the top military commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, echoed that assessment, "The conflict here is transitioning from an insurgency against us to a struggle for a division of political and economic power among the Iraqis."

Staying the course without enough troops to secure the entire country means playing "whack-a-mole" with the armed militias of Iraq's political and religious factions and just hoping things don't completely fall apart. That's the course we're on now, and it's not a plan for victory.

The other extreme is to "cut and run" immediately as John Warner (R-Virginia) obliquely proposed last week when he suggested that President Bush needs a new Congressional resolution to continue the war in Iraq. Although everyone left-right-and-center wants to eventually bring all the troops home, an immediate pullout is just as bad an idea as "stay the course" -- and it's an idea that almost no one is seriously considering. While a paltry 34% of Americans favor staying the course, according to the poll I cited earlier, only 26% think we should withdraw immediately. Politically, militarily, and realistically, "cut and run" is just not an option.

Several months ago, Senator Biden (D-Delaware) suggested creating in Iraq a republic with strong Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni states. That's an idea that has strong support from members of the Iraqi Congress, particularly from those who represent the southern Shiite and northern Kurdish enclaves. The Sunnis vehemently oppose what they call "partitioning" because their provinces have little in the way of oil resources -- the country's only economic engine at this point -- and they're afraid they'll get the short end of the dip stick. That's a valid fear, but not an insurmountable problem, although it'll require some adroit diplomacy and probably some guarantees from the international community to solve.

Neoconservative Max Boot has a couple "radical ideas". His favorite is to send more troops to secure Iraq so that we can disarm the militias, start building infrastructure, and create democratic institutions. I thought that was a great idea when Senator Clinton (D-New York) proposed it over a year ago, but I doubt the new Iraqi government would go for it at this point. Back when the US ran Iraq it was possible, but a large influx of US troops now would undermine the democratically elected government in Baghdad.

The other idea Boot throws out is one favored by our Special Forces community. They want to withdraw all but about 50,000 support and Special Forces troops and change the focus from conducting combat operations to providing support to the Iraqi military. Boot acknowledges that this approach is risky, but it would be cheaper, less of a drain on our military (two thirds of US Army and National Guard units are now rated unfit for combat), and, according to the Spec Ops guys, "most American soldiers in Iraq, with their scant knowledge of the local language and customs, are more of a hindrance than a help to the counterinsurgency effort."

The biggest problem with that approach is that it's politically unfeasible for President Bush to suggest a large-scale withdrawal of troops -- he'd be accused of cutting and running. For other Presidents, reassessing the situation and adjusting strategy might not be a problem, but for this one, "flip-flopping" is anathema. Perhaps if Congress -- not a Republican Congress, of course -- made enough noise, that would allow Bush to save some face and put Iraq on a new path to victory.

A couple weeks ago, Thomas Friedman presented what I think is the most compelling "Plan B" (ok, here's a free copy, you cheapos). He asserts that "any solution will have to be some form of federalism, a division of oil wealth and policing by an international force, where needed," and calls for "a last-ditch Bosnia-like peace conference that would bring together all of Iraq's factions and neighbors." The beauty of this plan is that it worked before in Bosnia and it doesn't call for a military solution to a political problem. We can hunt down insurgents and play "whack-a-mole" with factional militias all day long -- like we've been doing for three years now -- but nothing will change until a political agreement is hammered out.

Now, that's not a new idea. Kofi Annan and Jacques Chirac offered an international peacekeeping force and UN oversight of a political solution right after the fall of Baghdad, but President Bush declined the offer,

The Bush administration has abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought by France, India and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there, administration officials say.

"The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council and saying, 'We really need to make Iraq an international operation,'" an administration official said. "You can make a case that it would be better to do that, but, right now, the situation in Iraq is not that dire."

Well, now it is. The catch, of course, is that we'll have to withdraw most of our troops and pledge a lot more money to get international support for such an endeavor, and President Bush will have to eat some crow and take some abuse from his own Republican Party. He won't switch to Plan B on his own so, again, perhaps a Democratic Congress is necessary to save him some face and finally get on a path to victory in Iraq.

The Bush administration insists the choices for Iraq are "stay the course" or "cut and run", but the reality is that there are a gazillion different solutions available. Most Americans agree now that "stay the course" isn't working and Democrats are saying, "Let's try something else. Anything else."

Ultimately, the decision to stay the course to failure or choose a new path to victory is the Commander and Chief's to make, but because of brutal internal Republican politics, perhaps President Bush needs a fig leaf in the form of a Democratic Congress in order to make that choice.

Posted by American Pundit at August 13, 2006 5:13 PM
Comments
Comment #175334

Good Post! There are reasons why Democrats are now supporting the Iraq occupation.

The Iraq war was a huge mistake, and the current state of Iraq is the result of the current administration’s mismanagement. We cannot “cut and run”, but we must not “stay the course” becuase it is heading for certain failure. We must move in a different direction before we crash into a brick wall. I fear that a liberal solution would leave the country open to the influence of Iran and Syria, and IRaq will be worse off than with Saddam at the Helm. I’m glad he is out, but we need to find a workable solution before this train runs out of track. The civil war that the military is predicting has been raging for the last year, and it seems to be getting worse. President Bush’s progress on the war has failed, but what is solution?

Posted by: mem beth at August 13, 2006 6:10 PM
Comment #175338

American Pundit:

“The administration is not willing to confront going to the Security Council and saying, ‘We really need to make Iraq an international operation,’” an administration official said. “You can make a case that it would be better to do that, but, right now, the situation in Iraq is not that dire.”


“Well, now it is. The catch, of course, is that we’ll have to withdraw most of our troops and pledge a lot more money to get international support for such an endeavor, and President Bush will have to eat some crow and take some abuse from his own Republican Party. He won’t switch to Plan B on his own so, again, perhaps a Democratic Congress is necessary to save him some face and finally get on a path to victory in Iraq.”

So, what we have here is not a discussion of real options in getting out of Iraq, it’s a discussion of how to get out of Iraq without the Bush administration ‘losing face.’Consequently, we’re there for another two and one-half years, because this administration has no intention of losing face.

The idea that we will leave behind an intact,unified, pro-western, (or at least a non-anti-western) government is becoming a nonsensical idea. The real probability is that Iraq will be partitioned, whether through international treaty or informal military fiat between the three main factions. And the Shiites and Iran will be the big winners.

So, in the interim, thousands more people will die, ‘democracy’ in the US will run through it’s paces pretending there are real options when it’s obvious that the nation’s leaders neither have the vision nor the courage to extricate the nation from this fiasco. This whole enterprise was concocted from neo-con imperialist dementia, they have consistently changed the mission statement to cover their mendacious aims and policy failures. This was a poorly thought out, half-baked policy that had disaster written all over it.

Victory in democratic Iraq. What unmitigated nonsense. I’ve likened the whole effort as trying to graft a rose on a cactus. Democracy is tough enough to make fly when you want the damn thing. Witness our fits and starts. But vast number of Iraqis want to be left alone to live in peace, and their experience with ‘democracy’ has been a very expensive one.

Like the British in India, we will leave—oh, there’ll be plenty gnashing of teeth, of international conferences, feints of bluster; we’ll throw our bombs, our temper tantrums, we’ll sulk and pout. And then we’ll leave. Why? Because we’re going broke, militarily, financially, morally, spiritually.

We can hem and haw about the method, what our exit might look like,argue about time-tables and logistics, (people hanging off helicopter skids while it lifts off the embassy rooftop)— but make no mistake. We’re leaving, and the longer it takes for it to sink in for the people in power, the more the nation will suffer. The more the political scene becomes more and more devisive and vitriolic. And to think that this destruction was optional!

There is only one way to leave, unfortunately. Perhaps a coalition of international troops will eventually bail us out, but it won’t be on Bush’s watch. He and his people don’t have any diplomatic skills—they don’t even believe they need them. This Iraqi excursion has been an excercise in hubris and the tragic consequence of nationalistic jingoism and a runaway policy from Right-wing fanatics.

The above comment by an ‘adminstration official’ assumes that they can move on this at their leisure. The only way to light a fire under their collective asses is this election, and the one in 2008. The American people have a choice, again. Over the past ten years, they have chosen fear, apathy, mediocrity and lies. It is obvious that this government has no qualms about ignoring the people and their needs and wishes. If the people continue to vote these people into office, this country will be a third-rate banana republic inside of a generation.

And you know what? Maybe that is how it should be.

Posted by: Tim Crow at August 13, 2006 6:46 PM
Comment #175345

Excellent posts….All

Thanks!

Posted by: PlayNice at August 13, 2006 7:57 PM
Comment #175354

Tim Crow

I completely agree with your assessment. Bush will only leave kicking and screaming. When we do leave it will be hell in Iraq, but then it already is. So let’s leave sooner, rather than later. I don’t care what it’s called, cutting and running, walking away, changing the course…just leave!

Posted by: mark at August 13, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #175358

Nice article. It’s difficult sometimes to escape the either/or trap. I can’t help feeling, though, that short-term, at least, politics will get in the way of a thoughtful consideration of alternatives. We may need to clean (the White) House before much gets done.

Posted by: Trent at August 13, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #175361

The choice is not stay the course or cut and run. I agree. The choice is to adapt to conditions and pull out as conditions permit, or pull out immediately or on a predetermined time table w/o regard to conditions.

Many of the plans overlap. Ask about the details. The important difference is whether a pullout is attached to conditions or time.

Also ask whether or not the speaker thinks Iraq is “winnable” i.e. we can help the Iraqis establish a reasonably stable and democratic Iraq or if he/she thinks we will inevitably leave a situation worse than under Saddam.

How about this for a rhyming question. Let’s be clear. Do we leave this year?


Posted by: Jack at August 13, 2006 10:00 PM
Comment #175367
Many of the plans overlap. Ask about the details.

Details aren’t the salient point, Jack. The important thing is to acknowledge that the current plan will not bring victory and somehow convince the Commander in Chief to change course.

Critics of the way the Iraq is getting handled have offered many different solutions, yet President Bush has chosen to stick with the plan that has the least chance of success.

Democrats are saying it’s past time to implement Plan B.

You’re asking, “Which Plan B?”

With this article, I’m saying, “Pick one. There are plenty of viable plans to choose from.”

The Commander in Chief has a wide range of plans to choose from, or he can make up one of his own, but it’s clear that he can’t continue to “stay the course.” That’s the path to failure. Perhaps a Democratic Congress can give President Bush the impetus or political cover he needs to shit or get off the pot.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 13, 2006 10:46 PM
Comment #175368

i am not sure it is a matter of Bush loosing face. I think it is more about what it was about to begin with—the oil. I don’t think he will leave without US and British oil companies controlling or having some kind of deal made about the oil rights. sorry to be so pessimistic, but i don’t really think this administration cares about the politics. only the oil.

Posted by: judye at August 13, 2006 10:48 PM
Comment #175370

Jack:

In regard to your rhyming question, my short answer is no. We neither have the government or the momentum to leave this year.

If I were in charge I would push for a general consensus for a cut-off date of Dec. 31st, ‘07, with phased withdrawals beginning in January ‘07. If there were to be an international peace-keeping force agreed upon, that would give it enough time to assemble logistically to begin transfer of responsibilities in one year.

But, as I have said earlier, it isn’t going to happen, certainly not a full withdrawal. With all the permanent bases we’re building, plus that plush embassy, we aren’t going anywhere until Bush leaves. If then. Because, I don’t see the Dems having the political wherewithall to begin a real withdrawal until after the ‘08 elections, and maybe not even then. I think they think they need a clear mandate from the electorate in November and in ‘08. Polls are indicative of possible change, but a clear mandate is necessary.

There has to be a real meltdown of political ‘captital’ on the part of the Republicans for there to be serious discussion of withdrawal, a close to total repudiation. The Republicans are wounded by Iraq, but they have not been thoroughly discredited at the ballot box yet. When, and if, that happens, we might see some movement in bringing the troops home. Until then, it’s all PR, hype and mind games. Unfortunately.

Posted by: Tim Crow at August 13, 2006 10:56 PM
Comment #175375

excellent posts everyone. Now if we could just get the actual politicians to discuss some options in the mainstream media rather than taking jabs at one another (both right and left).

Posted by: sheldon at August 13, 2006 11:08 PM
Comment #175376

Great article
Removing American troops away from the center of the trouble spots in Iraq would permit more control and keener perspective for the most effective use of the troops and Marines in Iraq. This idea has been proposed before and makes even more sense as civil strife continues to worsen in Baghdad.

Posted by: John at August 13, 2006 11:24 PM
Comment #175387

AP,
Good article, as usual.
Sadly, I do not think the Bush administration has any interest whatsoever in solutions. Discussing alternatives in Iraq is frustrating because the White House will not listen.

Here is an obscure but interesting diary on utility and risk from a Daily Kos:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/8/12/18123/1569
In a nutshell, the Bush administration is becoming increasingly willing to take risks. Not only are solutions and alternatives for Iraq not on the radar, the White House is thinking in just the opposite terms: how to expand the war.

Israel v Hezbollah represents an example of this expansion. That the bombing of Lebanon constitutes a textbook example of 3GW failing when confronted with 4GW goes without saying. What is more striking is that the White House backed this foolish and risky path, and blocked negotitations while Israel destroyed Lebanese infrastructure & supposedly destroyed Hezbollah. The results are funny in the blackest sense; Israel now awaits Lebanese peacekeepers and UN peacekeepers to disarm Hezbollah! As if bombing the Lebanese and killing other UN observers brought them around to the Israeli view!

It is insanely stupid and bloody-minded, but from the Bush administration point of view, this is not Act V. Iraq is not an end in itself, and neither is the bombing of Lebanon. The next act is the expansion of WWIII into Syria and Iran.

Posted by: phx8 at August 14, 2006 12:29 AM
Comment #175398

I opposed the nonsensical idea of invading Iraq from that day in July of ‘02 when bush announced his intentions.
I resisted the inane excuses bush used for his invasion from WMDs to Al-Qaeda collusion to ‘liberation’ using all voice one American has.
My oppostion and dread prognostication of a Viet Nam-esque quagmire has been proven right again and again and again.
I have one son in the Marine Corps, another son currently serving as a soldier in Tikrit, and my youngest son just enlisted in the Army with pride, his and MINE, in the opportunity to serve his country.
YOU WANT TO TELL ME AND MY SONS THAT THEY MIGHT DIE IN THE DESERT OF IRAQ TO SAVE THE FACE OF A AN IDIOTIC ASSHOLE?!?!?!?!?
THAT is an unacceptable option.

The conservatives declare that victory in Iraq is an imperitive. I’d like to know what ‘victory in Iraq’ looks like but they’ve omitted THAT little detail. They’ve omitted it because they KNOW it’s an impossible dream. JUST LIKE VIET NAM. And just like Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, the Iraqi insurgents WILL NEVER STOP resisting our occupation. And just like Viet Nam, the only sane answer is complete withdrawal.

Back then, the war-mongering conservatives had a catch phrase like ‘cut and run’… it was ‘THE DOMINO EFFECT’. It’s undebatable that regardless of conservative catch phrases, southeast asia is much better off for our having left.

There is no doubt that if we withdrew form Iraq as suddenly as we withdrew from Viet Nam, there would be a great Civil War there. And like post-withdrawal Viet Nam, many will die. That is unfortunate, but it will be THEIR civil war. Our only remaining concern is and should be, that Iraq NOT become a breeding ground for international terrorists like Afghanistan did when we withdrew from there… like Lebanon did when we withdrew from there. This goal can be accomplished with Murtha’s over-the-horizon force stationed in friendly Kuwait.

Unlike the bush administration, I support the hunting down and destruction of Al Qaeda.
Unlike the bush administration, I support the hunting down and destruction of Hezbollah.
Unlike the bush administration, I support the war against terror and terrorists.
And unlike the bush administration, I believe $250 Million dollars a day can be better spent in pursuit of known terrorists than making Iraq safe for our oil interests.

Posted by: Thom Houts at August 14, 2006 3:29 AM
Comment #175443

Thom:

“I have one son in the Marine Corps, another son currently serving as a soldier in Tikrit, and my youngest son just enlisted in the Army with pride, his and MINE, in the opportunity to serve his country.
YOU WANT TO TELL ME AND MY SONS THAT THEY MIGHT DIE IN THE DESERT OF IRAQ TO SAVE THE FACE OF A AN IDIOTIC ASSHOLE?!?!?!?!?
THAT is an unacceptable option.”

I keep forgetting that these debates and discussions we have here at Watchblog have real people attached to them, with real consequences. Thank you for reminding me.

It was glib of me to insist that the Bush administration ‘will not lose face’ in Iraq, without taking into account the very real human consequence of that decision. Perhaps a Democratic sweep in November, and a Democratic president in ‘08 will convince the government that enough is enough. I really don’t know what it would take at this point, because frankly, I see an unresponsive government, whether it be Republican or Democrat.

What really concerns me about the Bush administration right now, is this truly disturbing penchant for fanning the flames in the Middle East. Their constant saber-rattling with Iran, their goading of Israel to draw Syria into the Lebanese conflagration—I don’t see them drawing down from a failed policy. I see them trying to enlarge the failed policy by drawing others in.

This is not the action of a sane, measured administration looking for ways to smooth the tensions, to promote a peaceful conclusion to Iraq, and the challenges that a nuclear Iran presents.

This policy is putting a strain on the military and the nation’s finances that cannot continue—especially when you are giving the top 5% of taxpayers tax cut after tax cut after tax cut. This administration not only expects the bottom 50% to do the dying for their failed foreign adventures, they expect them to pay for it as well.

This is insanity. The powers in Washington have never explained (to my satisfaction, as well as others) what Iraq had to do with the GWOT, 9/11, Afghanistan. It is a sinister, and duplicitous policy that flies in the face of all reason. This administration’s bald face lying, not only about Iraq, but other critical issues the nation faces, gives them absolutely no credibility with over half of the country. Frankly, I stopped listening to them about two years ago.

I can only imagine the anguish and concern these discussions have for you, Thom. I know you are proud of your sons, and that is how it should be. I wish them well. I sincerely hope for their sakes, as well as for the rest of us that despise this war, that this country comes to it’s senses soon.

Posted by: Tim Crow at August 14, 2006 1:29 PM
Comment #175520

Hmm—this was an interesting article. I’m surprised it didn’t get more play.

You haven’t offended anyone lately, have you AP?

:-)

Posted by: Tim Crow at August 14, 2006 10:00 PM
Comment #175545
You haven’t offended anyone lately, have you AP?

Maybe that’s the problem, Tim. I haven’t offended anyone lately. :)

No, I’ve found that a well-written article, thoroughly researched and based on fact, just doesn’t generate a lot of comments. I mean, who can argue with something like that, and there’s no point in repeating, “Good article.”

Sometimes it’s fun to poke the beehive and see what happens, and sometimes it’s enough just to give people something to think about.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 15, 2006 12:45 AM
Comment #175916

AP
I agree with your first post and final post.
So I won’t repeat the others regarding you great post! (LOL)

This is the first post I’ve seen, and the comments as well, that have not be religiously poked at, or attacked. or needlessly defended.

Graduationss! You have almost achieved what I was beginiing to think was impossible!

Posted by: Linda H. at August 16, 2006 5:17 PM
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