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July 22, 2008


I propose we come out and say something a lot of our rhetoric about sovereignty has not faced squarely: a democratic Iraq will disagree with the United States on certain issues, issues to which many Americans attach a fundamental importance.

Oil comes to mind first; Iraqis have every incentive to extract all the value they can from a depleting resource, while oil companies want to make the maximum possible profit, and American drivers want cheap gas. Second (possibly) to oil come American tolerance for Israeli policies that deeply offend Arabs and Muslims, most notably the efforts by some Israeli citizens and policy makers to ethnically cleanse the Israeli administered territories.

How's McCain's answer "truthy"? (Maybe Michael Goldfarb's answer is, but why is McCain's?)

McCain’s use of the term ‘Iraqi People’ gives him an out. There is no ‘Iraqi People’; only people in Iraq. But compare and contrast with:

Obama said he wouldn't be "rigid and stubborn" about the 16-month timetable and would intervene if a resurgence of ethnic violence in Iraq "presented the possibility of genocide."

I’m beginning to think that Obama actually believes that his judgment can eliminate the possibility of genocide. He may be starting to believe his own words. He may be truthful.

How's McCain's answer "truthy"? (Maybe Michael Goldfarb's answer is, but why is McCain's?)

McCain's answer is truthy if his campaign representative, Goldfarb, accurately conveys the candidate's current position.

The two statements cannot coincide and both be true.

If Goldfarb is wrong, and/or speaking on his own, the campaign should correct the misinformation.


In light of the tempest which has arisen over these recent statements from Maliki, I am mulling over two possible interpretations:

1 - Maliki is using is the media to play hardball with the Bush administration regarding their ongoing negotiations over the terms of the SOFA.

It seems to me like a rather unlikely coincidence that Maliki would choose just this particular moment to inject US domestic politics into the conversation (by directly referencing Obama’s position on US troop withdrawal timetables). His choice of a German media outlet, as opposed to say an Iraqi or American magazine or TV station is a little curious, and makes me wonder if this was done deliberately as an escalation from his government’s prior statements on the subject of US troop withdrawals (e.g. such as http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/08/AR2008070801311.html”>the one you highlighted in http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/07/dont-get-too-co.html”>your SOFA article on July 8th) which didn’t garner a great deal of attention in the US, while stopping short of a much more prominent statement made directly to a major US press venue, both in order to preserve some flexibility (in case a walkback became politically expedient) and to allow for the possibility of a further escalation in pressure if Bush fails to take the hint and does not give Maliki more of what he wants in the SOFA negotiations.

In other words, I think Maliki may be sending Bush a message: “That’s a nice GOP nominee you’ve got there. It would be a pity if something really bad were to happen to your coverage in the press. [wink, wink]. Oh, by the way, here are the changes I want made to your most recent SOFA proposal. Say, that Obama fellow is rather charming, isn’t he?”

2 – McCain may be more on target with his South Korea analogy (vs. Iraq) than we give him credit for. IIRC somewhat pro-forma denunciations of the US military presence have become something of a fixture in South Korean politics, while doing little to actually force us to depart from the peninsula. It seems to me that Iraq may be headed in a similar direction, such that the Maliki government (or a similarly constituted government which succeeds it) will be forced to make periodic complaints about our military presence for domestic political reasons, while doing little in a practical sense to force the issue. In which case we are being treated to a kubuki theater performance right now, mainly for Iraqi consumption.

I’m debating the degree to which these interpretations are mutually exclusive or potentially overlapping, and do or do not fit the evidence.

#1 is certainly possible. Actually, I'd say that is the baseline interpretation. At the very least, Maliki is flexing his muscles to gain leverage vis-a-vis Bush - and to shore up his nationalist bona fides for domestic political reasons.

Others, like Swopa (see my other post from today), think that Maliki basically means what he says, and that this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. There are, of course, details that could still be quibbled about such as a small residual force for training, and possible air support promises.

I tend toward the latter, though it is a question of timing: Just when will Maliki want us out? How long until he thinks his position strong enough to usher us to the exits?

As for South Korea: that would only truly be appropriate if American soldiers stopped getting maimed and killed at a fairly regular rate, and a violent resistance movement ceased entirely. Otherwise, it will differ from South Korea in those rather significant respects.

Noble Eric, I think you're trying too hard to catch McCain in a contradiction, as if a perfectly consistent foreign policy is in our self-interest.

And forget the existence of his Neocon advisers. McCain is realpolitik.

He says repeatedly 'conditions on the ground' and stuff like this :

If it were an extremist government then I think we would have other challenges...

true, he couches it in lofty talk about elections and Iraqi aspirations. But, for McCain, there's a limit.

And for his entire career, he's been sufficiently consistent on his readiness to force limits on hostile, lesser powers, which of course in his eyes are necessarily extremist.

Look, if a young John McCain would not respect Vietnam's sovereign right to establish a Communist government, and since he continues assert these paternalistic conditions about Iraq, why bite on the lofty bones he tosses?

the foreign policy debates should be about whether Iraqi debts should continue to be negotiated essentially in private law or whether an international body should be established for work outs.

Stay or go, I promise future Iraqis are going to reject any private terms we agree on now.

The problem is that Maliki goes from non-extremist to extremist by virtue of the fact that he wants our troops out in a couple of years. Nothing else has changed.

Which is bollocks and not realpolitik at all.

It is imperialism dressed up.

It is imperialism dressed up.


Not so much "dressed up" as simply wrapped in the Stars and Stripes, decked out in red-white-and-blue bunting, and sold to the American public as being the desired natural order of things: whose failures/shortcomings are always Somebody Else's Fault.

I think you've put your finger on the principal issue wrt Iraq: the war, which was flogged as a sort of Powell-Doctrine-compatible "liberation" was, and always has been, part of the neocons' Great Game Master Plan to establish US "hegemony" in the Middle East - by military force. But since the architects of this policy knew that Americans probably wouldn't back a war based fundamentally on neo-colonialist expansionism; they have had to shift and shuffle virtually every goal, benchamark and rationale re Iraq for the last five years. Hence the still-elusive definition of "victory" - and the increasingly shrill invocation of it by the war's main apologists, like Sen. McCain.

I can't agree with you on 'imperialism,' Eric.

there's a significant difference between allowing local populations to establish whatever government they want providing it is not hostile to our investors, on the one hand, and forcing locals to adopt our mother tongue and all french horrors that implies.

missing the distinction misses the significant ways in which America achieves her dominance.


Then whatever way you want to describe it.

It's still ugly, unworkable and in the long run counterproductive, even if a prettier variation of ugly.

So, about those provincial elections.

Also, btw:

Capt. Mahmoud al-Bayati, a police officer in Kirkuk, said that Arkan al-Naiemi, the son of the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper Sound of Villages, was accidentally shot dead by American soldiers on Wednesday, when he failed to stop his car after a convoy of Humvees pulled out in front of him. A request for comment e-mailed to the United States military went unanswered.
Capt. Mahmoud al-Bayati, a police officer in Kirkuk, said that Arkan al-Naiemi, the son of the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper Sound of Villages, was accidentally shot dead by American soldiers on Wednesday, when he failed to stop his car after a convoy of Humvees pulled out in front of him. A request for comment e-mailed to the United States military went unanswered.
Oopsie. Can't see why Iraqis would object to this sort of thing, and to having no say over investigating such events.

Speaking of oopsie.

Mine are less fatal, though.

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