TL, I read your last post about the Iraq Study Group. You sure seem cynical about it.
Why are you such a hater? Don't you think these people really tried to help find a solution to a really difficult problem?
Hate the game, not the hater. Anyway, sure, they tried to think of a way out. But that wasn't really their mission.
Oh? What do you think their mission was?
Providing political cover for the administration, and to a lesser extent for Congress, because the war is so obviously going badly.
But the report is critical of the Administration's policies.
Not really. This isn't anything that the Administration hasn't been saying on its own all along. Didn't somebody once say "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"? Does that sound familiar to you?
Sure, sure. But that's just common sense.
So did we need the Iraq Study Group to tell us that in the first place? The question has always been "So when are the Iraqis going to 'stand up' already?" The only thing the ISG has done is set a goal of 2008.
Now, come on. The Administration resisted the formation of the ISG in the first place, and it has resisted the idea of any kind of a timetable. Bush ran on an anti-timetable platform in 2004 and got himself re-elected.
With an overwhelming margin of 2.4% of the popular vote. A victory, yes, but not exactly a mandate for the status quo. And Kerry didn't really ever offer any different ideas about Iraq anyway.
Granted. But we're getting sidetracked here. The point is, something has happened to move the debate on the war forward and bring us to resolution. Shouldn't you be "Cheerful For Once" about this instead of so cynical?
Look past all the nice labels and prestigious names and the political hooopla. What's really going to change because a bunch of ex-politicians talked to a bunch of current politicians? Three thousand Americans have died in Iraq -- after "Mission Accomplished." Iraq is in absolute chaos, and the new Secretary of Defense is stepping in line with the White House's desire to fight on semantic grounds instead of figuring out a strategy for victory. When asked whether Iraq is in a state of civil war or not, he said:
Okay, how can we achieve victory in Iraq, then?
First, we sever Kurdistan from the rest of the country and establish it as an independent nation, and ally ourselves to Kurdistan. The Turks will howl but they'll deal with it; the Kurds have their act together. Second, Iraq doesn't get a democracy until it's earned it, and it hasn't yet. Until the Iraqis demonstrate that they are going to be dependable allies, both in terms of the decisions they make on their own and their ability to execute those decisions, we keep our boots firmly on the Iraqi's throats. That's what we did in Germany and Japan in the 1940's. And third, we make no bones about the fact that we're going to establish large, permanent military bases in the oil-producing regions of the country, so the Iranians don't get any bright ideas.
The veneer is different, but you'd still be putting American troops in harm's way and relegating Iraq to a state of being subject to permanent semi-terrorism.
Well, there's only so much that even an overwhelming and pervasive military presence can do about that, isn't there? Somehow Israel has managed to have a generally peaceful, civil, democratic, and prosperous nation despite the continual presence of terrorism within its ever-expanding borders since 1949. Why can't the Iraqis do the same thing?
Israel has had a lot of help and support from us.
So will Iraq. For better or for worse, Bush put us irrevocably on a path towards a Marshall Plan for Iraq. So we need to see that plan through. And yes, American soldiers will continue to die if we do that. But that's the path we're on. What the ISG is doing, what the new Congress is agitating for, and what the Administration is starting to show signs of being willing to do, is to only go part way down that path, point to the end, and say to the Iraqis, "Okay, you can do the rest!" They can't. It took a generation for Germany and Japan to become internally realigned and there's every reason to believe that Iraq will take longer, thanks to intractible sectarian differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites. It's a little something that that our leaders once called "nation-building."
Oh, fine. Go ahead and take another cheap shot at Bush, TL, that was way back in 2000. 9/11 changed everything, you know. But really, aren't there any other options for us?
Yes, as a matter of fact, there is one other option. We can bail out. Get everyone on the helicopters and abandon the embassy. Not a very palatable option, but yes, it an option.
So what you're saying is that we should do the job right or we shouldn't do it at all?
Pretty much. Look at what mandating half measures, making empty promises, political micromanagement of military operations, and domestic duck-and-cover politics have earned us so far. Lots of dead soldiers and so far, their deaths have accomplished nothing meaningful or good. We can't stop the bleeding either with honor or with meaningful effect. What I suggest is the best of the uniformly bad alternatives available at this point.
What, then, is success in Iraq? How do you define "victory"?
Success is when Iraq is 1) reliably within the political and economic orbit of the West; 2) internally stable enough to support economic growth and pay us (and the British, Aussies, Italians, Poles, Canadians, and Spanish) back for all the money we've spent on them; and 3) strong enough to defend itself from Iranian or Syrian encroachment. Failure is any of A) political domination by Iran or Syria; B) emergence of a control group hostile to the West, particularly to the United States; or C) a bloody stalemate draining lives and money to no geopolitical effect (otherwise known as the status quo).
Can we achieve victory as you've defined it?
Yes. If we want it bad enough. Otherwise, tell the last Marine on the helicopters to take the embassy's flag with him.