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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Out by Groundhog Day

At the risk of engaging in the "it's true because a member of the opposition party said so" game, it's worth noting that a prominent Republican senator is taking a stance that seems, at least on a surface level, at odds with recent pronouncements by Brian Baird. From The Washington Post:
Sen. John W. Warner, one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security, called on President Bush yesterday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in time for Christmas as a new intelligence report concluded that political leaders in Baghdad are "unable to govern effectively."

Warner's declaration -- after the Virginia senator's recent four-day trip to the Middle East -- roiled the political environment ahead of a much-anticipated progress report to be delivered Sept. 11 by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. Although Warner had already broken with Bush's strategy, this was the first time he endorsed pulling troops out by a specific date.
So I guess it's all even again in Congress. I'm sure the right wing radio hosts will be scrambling to hear Sen. Warner's views.

In all seriousness, whether we pull out 5,000 troops by Groundhog Day or whatever is not the big enchilada. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it seems like we are on the verge of some irreversible decisions about our role in the Middle East, and as such Congress needs to act decisively in September.

Whether things are "improving" in Iraq kind of depends on where one sits. If you're an Iraqi civilian, times are still tough. From The New York Times:
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.

Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show.
This isn't simply a moral question. This kind of chaos can't be helpful in terms of creating an Iraqi society that is stable, to say the least. Frankly, I kind of wonder what all the noise is about anyhow. Baird says next spring and Warner says Christmas. So Groundhog Day it is.

Does it ever dawn on policy makers that our presence in Iraq simply complicates things so badly that it will never calm down? You can't impose a functioning democracy on a country through military means. Democracies function because the people buy into the social contract. We can try to create some conditions that will help in that regard, but we've had four years plus. Too many egregious mistakes have been made to think we can do a ton of good there.

This month is starting to remind me of the old Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. The leadership of our country seems badly out of touch regarding Iraq and how ordinary Americans perceive the situation. But in a very broad sense, Sen. Warner is right: we need to start the process of disengagement. We should listen to professional military and diplomatic personnel about how to do that, but we have to make that key decision first.

It may take far longer than many of us want, but that's something we'll just have accept. It's not like we're being stop-lossed into blogging or something.

UPDATE, OR DIGBY HAS A POINT -- Digby sees the whole thing as kabuki. And as always, she has a point:
The administration is mounting a multi-pronged public relations campaign to show "the surge" is working to shore up any wobbly congressmen. The NIE today reinforces the idea of surging progress. But that isn't the whole story. The NIE also says the political situation is a mess, which it is. Today we find out that Bush's lobbyist allies are now working to depose Maliki and install their favorit puppet Ilyad Allawi. And John "tectonic shift" Warner, (who said that he would not vote with the Democratic withdrawal proposals) also said in his little speech that Prime Minister Maliki is not doing a heckuva job and we need to pressure him to knock some Iraqi heads together (or "somebody" finds someone who will.) And he even admits that is the reason he's calling for withdrawing a few thousand troops. Conventional wisdom seems to be gelling that the problem is Maliki.

Except, of course, it isn't.
EVEN MORE, OR PETER PACE HAS SOME OPINIONS NOW -- The Los Angeles Times reports that outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace will call for very substantial troop reductions to occur in 2008. His rationale, according to the article, is that keeping so many troops in Iraq will strain our military to the breaking point.

<< Home