Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Baird changing position somewhat on Iraq

If you like politicians who refuse to engage in group-think, who work hard and try to get the best information they can, you kind of have to hear them out even if they are telling you something you don't want to hear. From The Columbian:
Days after returning from his second trip to Iraq, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird is rethinking his position on the timing of U.S. troop withdrawals from the war-ravaged country.

Three times this year, the Vancouver Democrat has supported legislation calling for troop withdrawals to begin by a set date. In May, he supported beginning the pullout as early as Oct. 1.

Now he believes that setting a date to withdraw at this moment could drive Iraq into the arms of Iran and cut short real progress by Iraqis who are at last taking on al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

"I have come to believe that calls for premature withdrawal may make it more difficult for Iraqis to solve their problems," Baird said in an interview. "If you have some guarantee of support, you have working space to reach out and involve the other side. If you think we are going to withdraw and chaos and civil war might ensue, then the decision is different.

"It's no longer 'Let's reach out,' but 'Let's prepare for the coming war.' That's a very different mind-set."
The article also says Baird is now against partitioning Iraq due to to what people there have told him. He also cites concerns about Iranian influence as a justification for not leaving "prematurely," which as we all know is a rather vague time frame. I always wonder how many F.U.'s (Friedman Units) it is.

If you read the full article, you could come to the conclusion that Baird was heavily influenced by his Republican traveling partners and the U.S. military. But Baird has been to the region several times that I know of, so I don't think he's some babe in the woods. He may not be considered a foreign policy heavyweight, but I recall that during the Balkans conflict he knew the details and was pretty familiar with the history of post-war Europe, so I like to think he has applied the same diligence when it comes to Iraq.

That being said, I think it's fair for progressives to question a strategy with such vague goals. The irony is that we'll wind up backing the Sunnis. You know, Saddam's folks.

I don't think I've ever truly envisioned a "quick" departure from Iraq anyhow. The quibble I have with Baird over this is that it lends cover to the administration, which clearly has no interest in ever leaving Iraq. That may be a horrible, cynical political calculation on my part, but it's a horrible, cynical political system that got us into this mess in the first place. But I can respect Baird for attempting to digest the facts as best he is able, given constraints on the ground and such.

What we still haven't done in the United States is actually decide that we need to start finding ways to actually leave Iraq. It could take a year, but each time it gets pushed back another F.U. we're taking hundreds more casualties. The worst bombing of the entire war just happened the other day, if anyone actually notices the poor Iraqi civilians any more.

It's worth noting that Baird still brings extra credibility to the table, at least in my view, because he voted against the initial invasion of Iraq. I would urge my fellow progressives to at least consider what he is saying. We may not agree with all of it, but Baird has no obvious political motivation to say these things, as no challenger of any note has emerged for 2008.

So while we may find Baird's comments kind of frustrating in the context of domestic U.S. politics, the important thing is that we act in our national interest. Some of us may have differing views on how that works, but that's democracy.

<< Home