February 20, 2007

A Proposal For Victory: The Giuliani Doctrine

And it was promising to get so interesting. But when RedState starts turning on you, that's a sign that maybe the steak has been cooked all the way through. Not keeping the crowds at home happy is a big problem for any politician. And that's not a problem that only Mitt Romney has. Social conservatives are reconciling themselves to Rudy Giuliani early -- and firmly.

In the meantime, the Democrats seem to have winnowed out everyone but Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Enough Democrats are still excited by Obama to make this race difficult to call (the election is more than eighteen months away, after all!) but John Edwards is falling by the wayside and no one else seems able to draw any air in a room with Clinton or Obama in it. Right now, I'd give the edge to Clinton; she seems to have more money, more machinery, and enough poise to be confident in her own record. We'll know for sure by April 1, when the first round of fund-raising reports must be filed with the FEC.

But right now it's looking a lot like Giuliani versus Clinton, and it's looking like a one-issue election.

That issue, of course, is the war. Thanks to the gross mismanagement of the war by a White House that seemed oblivious to the fact that there are intractable problems in Iraq until four months ago, the war is going to be a huge obstacle for whoever gets the GOP nomination (read: Giuliani). The Democrats' line (read: Clinton's): "There is no real good solution, so how many of our kids have to die before we accept the inevitable and bail out?"*

The present White House can cry about this sort of talk "emboldening our enemies" and being "defeatism" or "not supporting the troops." But that theme is resonating with the voters and so as a practical matter, the GOP nominee needs to figure out what else we might do aside from sending all the soldiers to the rooftops to wait for the helicopters. In other words, Giuliani needs a better comeback to that proposal than "Hey, quit demoralizing the troops!"

The answer, I think, is for the nominee to propose setting up permanent military bases in Iraq. Our strategy of invasion and setting up a friendly client democracy there would only ever have worked with our military support. Our only successful model for state-building, the Marshall Plan, required substantial U.S. military investment in the formerly hostile nations of Germany and Japan. And those nations, even today, depend on us for military protection (although much less so than even ten years ago).

Ah, but the Marshall Plan only worked because we also had a cold war going on with the Soviets, you say. Well, as it turns out, there is another mysterious, ideological, and dangerous enemy rising -- and right across the border from Iraq, as it turns out, making those permanent bases decidedly convenient and strategically useful. Since invading Iran or even any substantially aggressive military action against it are not practical possibilities for us (sure, let's polarize the Muslim world against us even more than it already is), a strategy of containment and encouraging internal liberalization may well prove better-suited to our long-term geopolitical needs.

And, it's not like Iran is exactly popular with its neighbors. Iran is ruled by a group of people who are considered ethnically different from the elites of every other Muslim nation in central and western Asia. It's well-known that Persians sneer at Arabs. Most of the Arabic nations in the area are Sunni; Iran is Shi'ite. I've long suspected that only the presence of common enemies (e.g., Israelis, Americans) prevents the ethnic and sectarian differences between Iran and its Arab neighbors from boiling over into war. I further suspect that I am far from alone in that suspicion.

A plan of permanent military engagement with Iraq, perhaps withdrawing from the urban chaos that is Baghdad but solidifying our military hold over the countryside and the oil-producing regions of the east and north of the country (as well as the vital port at UmmQasr) would be a prelude to a sort of smaller-scale cold war with Iran -- not a prospect to be met with joy but a geopolitical model from which success has sprung in the past.

So here's a proposal for the Giuliani Doctrine: The Iraqis need to start being responsible for their own internal police matters like quelling riots and preventing car bombs from exploding. That means that the bulk of our troops get out of the Baghdad area. But we will provide substantial strategic military assistance to the fledgling democracy against foreign threats like incursions from Iran, a soft border with Syria, and minimizing smuggling of contraband into Turkey. To do this, we move our troops to rural areas near the borders, oilfields, and strategic chokepoints. Any attempt by foreign powers to detract from the sovereignty of Iraq or any other nation with trade relations to the West will be met with stern reprisals backed up by overwhelming force. In the meantime, we encourage the development of liberal, secular democracy in Iraq and elsewhere through the availability of consumer goods and the proliferation of information via the Internet, radio, and other dimensions of a generally free press. This may not happen very quickly, I realize; it took more than a generation in Eastern Europe. But it did happen.

The Republican candidate (read: Giuliani) who can articulate a plan for success not only in Iraq but also the entire Gulf theater may well get a leg up on the Democratic candidate calling for us to cut our losses (read: Clinton) -- while still demonstrating that the future is not going to look like the present. The American people will accept sacrifices and losses if they believe it is for a good reason. Right now, there is no reason, there is no plan, there is no apparent route to (or even definition of) victory, and as a result there is a sense of despair. This plays into the hands of the party out of power, as was forcefully demonstrated in November. Senator Clinton's likely platform on this issue will not be a plan for winning in any sense of the word; it is a plan for mitigating the damage of another military loss.

Victory is good policy and it's good politics. A vision of getting our troops out of harm's way and into positions where they're going to do us some good could be sold with no small amount of domestic political success and who knows? It might actually be good for us on the international front, too.

* I assume here that the President's idea of a "surge" of 20,000 troops into the Baghdad area will not yield significant progress towards pacifying Iraq. There's no way to know for sure whether this strategy of "the same stuff we've been doing for the past year, only more of it" will produce any different result other than the steady stream of violence and death bringing home too many soldiers in caskets; we can only try it and see if it works. But as far as I can tell, there's no good reason to believe that it will. We've had this many troops in country very recently, and got no good results from it. But, of course, we can hope that there will be some different kinds of tactical operations going on, particularly with new commanders on the scene. Nothing would please me, and the rest of the country, more than seeing some calm descend on Baghdad. So while I really do hope the plan works, I'm still very doubtful about that proposition.

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