The other Kerrey tries to acquaint the left with reality in Iraq Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, May 23, 2007
And, I'm sure, for trying to do so, he'll be virtually frog-marched to the Lieberman political gulag by the good old Netroots crowd.
I was particularly enamored of his title and subtitle: "The Left's Iraq Muddle: Yes, it is central to the fight against Islamic radicalism."
He revisits why Iraq was indeed a viable target at the time, the fact that no one is arguing the war hasn't been badly handled and, most importantly, why that doesn't matter now:
No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.
That, obviously, is the war we are trying to win. Kerrey then makes an extremely interesting point:
Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.
The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart.
Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy and inflamed sectarian tensions to the same level of violence we are seeing today. Wouldn't you expect the same people who are urging a unilateral and immediate withdrawal to be urging military intervention to end this carnage? I would.
Anyone? Where would we be right now since if that scenario had played out it would have obviously threatened our national security given that al Qaeda is a sworn enemy of ours? Do we leave them to build their base within Iraq?
As to his other point about calls for intervention by the very same people who are calling to end our presence in Iraq, let's revisit the most recent example of precisely what Kerrey is saying. Senator Joe Biden, Democratic presidential candidate:
"I would use American force now," Biden said at a hearing before his committee. "I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it."
In advocating use of military force, Biden said senior U.S. military officials in Europe told him that 2,500 U.S. troops could "radically change the situation on the ground now."
Which is in more vital to our national security?
Kerrey challenges anti-war liberals with a question:
American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.
With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.
The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."
This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified—though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.
And, as I've pointed out time and time again, that is a critical victory for that movement and one we must deny them.
Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.
Is the latter, or should the latter, be our purpose there?
Lastly, and key:
Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.
I think he's right. However, given the atmosphere in Washington and the war in Iraq, I have very little hope that will ever be accomplished.
There can be bi-partisan cooperation on a coherent counter-terrorism strategy. And if the reports that President Bush is planning to shift control to the UN and develop regional measures for Iraq (a Muslim security force replacing the US, etc.), then it’ll be a lot easier. The failure in Iraq is dividing the country when it needs to be united. It is unrealistic to expect either side to unite if the call is "we’ll be united if everyone agrees with us, and those who don’t are opposing America" or "we’ll be united if we get out of Iraq and those who don’t are immoral militarists." The call has to be to find a different policy to deal with the situation in Iraq which the US can support and even play a role, but not be heavily involved militarily, and then work to develop a coherent and cogent counter-terrorist policy. The kind of attacks done by some in this blog (including you, McQ) are as detrimental to that effort as attacks on the President by people like Jimmy Carter. There is a core agreement on the need for counter terrorism that is made murky by the disagreement about Iraq. That is why it is in the national interest to find a different approach to Iraq.
There is a core agreement on the need for counter terrorism that is made murky by the disagreement about Iraq.
We all also agree that water is wet and murder is bad....we all agree that counter-terrorism is important, now HOW to do it: Spend our time wondering "why do they hate us?" Sign Kyoto Join the ICC Abandon Israel Engage Iran Withdraw from Iraq Increase humanitarian aid OR Preempt terror threats Destablize, destroy or contain those states supporting international terror
Or some mix of the above?
But to say we agree on the NEED is foolish, yes we all agree on the need, Erb, what we haven’t agreed upon, since Oct 2001 is HOW best to do it.
Some see Iraq as central to the fight others, wrongly, do not.
Spend our time wondering "why do they hate us?" Sign Kyoto Join the ICC Abandon Israel Engage Iran Withdraw from Iraq Increase humanitarian aid OR Preempt terror threats Destablize, destroy or contain those states supporting international terror
Spend our time trying to please a fickle world
Spend our time and resources acting in the best interest of our national security.
Gee, guess what role of government I come down on?
Because the UN has been so effective at this sort of thing in the past? Come on - what will they do other than stand by idly and maybe set up some prostitution rings?
Meagain, the UN is what the member states make it. If the UN Security Council gets behind a plan, it can make things happen. The UN has been used as a tool of US foreign policy since its inception (Korea and Iraq ’91 are classic examples), and if the US can work with other states and get Security Council approval to allow a mission of Muslim security forces or something like that, it can be effective. Also note that UN peacekeeping operations are usually very effective. There have been spectacular failures (like Rwanda), but those failures were failures of the states on the Security Council.
Made murky? You mean like ignoring the fact we have most of the terrorists in one place and are day by day reducing their numbers and their fighting capacity?
What kind of fantasy land are you talking about? Certainly that’s not Iraq! And what exactly do you mean by "terrorist?" Is every insurgent a terrorist in your book?
Did I miss a news report or two about McQ’s thoughts about the world?
Hey, he’s got the top three blogs in Virginia, bordering DC ;-)
Pakistani UN peacekeeping troops have traded in gold and sold weapons to Congolese militia groups they were meant to disarm, the BBC has learnt.
These militia groups were guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s long civil war.
The trading went on in 2005. A UN investigative team sent to gather evidence was obstructed and threatened.
The team’s report was buried by the UN itself to "avoid political fallout".
Politically it is difficult to change strategies. To many politicians abandon their principles for votes so that they can stay in office.
One side of the argument is adamant to get us out of Iraq, damn the consequences. Many of them wont even consider the consequences, or use sugar coated assumptions in which all will be well, if only us misguided Americans would leave. They are overly optimistic that most sides would stop the violence if we weren’t there agitating them.
Then there’s the people who want us to achieve victory. The quickest way to victory would have been to keep a united effort going. Of course, we didn’t really have that at the start of the war. And many people made damn sure to make it hard to achieve a united front.
And then there’s the great swath of people in the middle who don’t really know with great accuracy what’s going on in Iraq, or what would happen if we left. They are easily led by who ever is shouting the loudest and what ever is hitting the front page or top story in the news.
How anyone can reconcile this into a meaningful coalition for political support to form a new strategy is beyond me.
If we are united in the goal, then we can come to a consensus on what we need to do to achieve that goal.
The goal isn’t to simply leave Iraq. That has consequences which are far ranging.
The goal isn’t to stay militarily engaged in Iraq forever either. It wouldn’t matter how many troops we had in Iraq, if they weren’t getting shot at and killed in great numbers.
So, somewhere in the middle should be a strategy which should be both supportable, and lead towards victory.
"Suppose we had not invaded Iraq and Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents"
I was laughing so hard I forgot why I copied this. Christopher Hitchens, not generally known as a Bush lackey, makes a similar point in support of our invasion of Iraq. The country was falling apart and sooner or later would have descended into such a dangerous chaos that intervention would have been absolutely necessary. Better to do it sooner, rather than later, while there is still something to work with.
Keith - to avoid being redundant I’ve addressed some of this in the other Iraq thread. I agree there should be a consensus in the middle and think that underneath the noise there is movement in that direction. Also, I think the focus on Iraq really distracts people from the longer term strategy of counter-terrorism, is if finding a solution to Iraq of any sort ends the problem.
Hussein had been overthrown by Shiite and Kurdish insurgents. Suppose al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy
Interesting hypothetical. But how did Iraq get from Shiite and Kurdish insurgents overthrowing Saddam to setting up a "new democracy" for Al Qaeda to undermine? Is that the part where magic happens? Let’s say, somehow, Shia groups developed the capacity to meaningfully fight Sadddam and then, somehow, convinced the Kurds, who are reasonably happy under their no-fly zone, to join them. Step one in the Peshmerga’s onslaught would be to kill every Arab in Kirkuk. Meanwhile the Shia are cutting Sunni throats across the south and what do you think happens in Baghdad? Baghdad is the scene of full scale civil war. Under this home grown rebelion scenario is there any reason to think that the Iraqi army’s tanks and artilery will not be intact for use by the various factions? Or that they wouldn’t use them? Worrying about our response to what Al Qaeda might do to undermine an eventual new democracy wouldn’t be the first thing on our plate.
Regarding calls for invasions, perhaps instead of imaginary scenarios the expample of an actual country in the neighborhood would be useful. Is anyone calling for invasion of Lebanon whose fragile deomcracy is being undermined by Al Qaeda today? Or Iran, whose dictator was overthrown by home-grown insurgents, and whose revolution was coopted by islamists. Sure, some are calling for invasion of Iran, but not the same folks as are calling for an end to the invasion of Iraq.
My answer: You’d see as many liberals calling for an invasion in support of Iraq’s "new democracy" as you currently see calling for an invasion of Lebanon or of Iran or of Sri Lanka in support of the government there. I would not be one of them.
But honestly, you’d might as well ask if Saddam had experienced a change of heart and made Iraq into a democracy where he was elected president, and then al Qaeda then undermined their new democracy, what then?
The hypothetical is silly — al qaeda couldn’t undermine a Shi’ite-Kurdish democracy on its own. It could only aid a Sunni inspired effort to undermine such a system. If somehow the Sunnis could be brought on board with the Shi’ites and Kurds, then they’d crush al qaeda. If not, well...then you’d have what you have now, with al qaeda doomed to lose with or without America getting involved. In any event, we don’t want other states to stick their noses in our business, we should be circumspect in trying to stick our nose in other peoples’ business. Look where it got us now — we have to learn from this mistake. Americans thought it would be a quick, easy war, we’d install a democracy, the Iraqis would greet us as liberators and oil revenues would pay for reconstruction. Instead hundreds of billions of dollars, mass violence and a quagmire. Lesson: choosing to use war as policy is dangerous with numerous unintended consequences. In looking at Iran and elsewhere, we have to take this lesson to heart and not make the same mistake. Intervention is dangerous and risky. War should only be a last resort choice, not a tool of geopolitics.