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October 29, 2008

Comments

Geez, Publius; That’s some kind of fine thinking you’re doing there.
This one has legs.

Publius,

Is this the same "progressive" policy circle that did everything they could to hamstring the Iraq war by calling for irresponsible withdrawal under a Pelosi-led congress? Wasn't the "conservative" Kagan at AEI one of the architects of the surge strategy to engage the Iraqi population with joint patrols? Wasn't Petraeus called a traitor by a very influential progressive PAC for lying to the American public (when he wasn't)?

Not that I think "neo-conservatives" have always been right about foreign policy, but it seems pretty silly for any broad-scale political grouping on either side of the aisle to take credit for every foreign policy success in the last few years.

LT Nixon, I'm not seeing where publius made any kind of claim to "every foreign policy success in the last few years".......

And I'd love to see how the Pelosi-led Congress actually did anything to hamstring the Iraq war. Calling for withdrawal is a heck of a lot different from what actually happened, and I'd be interested to hear how that "calling for withdrawal" had any impact in theater.

LT Nixon, I'm curious: when exactly did it become important to you, personally, that the American military should fight in Iraq?

I have to assume that you believe it's worth fighting if you believe that it's worth "winning". But I suspect you did not grow up with a personal interest in Iraq. You acquired it, at some point, for some reason.

When? Why?

--TP

Whammer,

Luckily, those withdrawal resolutions were vetoed at a time when it would've had serious ramifications if we packed up and left. They showed that we didn't have the political will to finish the fight, even though the AUMF passed in congress in 2002 that got us into Iraq in the first place.

Tony P,

Well, I was assigned to Iraq during the surge (June 2007-June 2008) as a Navy Individual Augmentee on a staff in the Intl. Zone (aka Green Zone). So you can probably sympathize that I wanted to "win" a war I was part of. I certainly want to see the country stabilize so that the terrorists are kicked out, mass killings aren't occurring, the country has some level of infrastructure/development, and so we can have more troops to fight in Afghanistan (which isn't going as well) to defeat extremism. I don't really like to tow the line for any candidate or political party, and I'm more interested in what works. I dunno, your question is vague, shoot me an email if you have specifics, but really I'm just some schmoe hanging out on the internet leaving comments because I find the politics of war interesting.

Pub,

To tone it down a bit, I agree that we should talk to our enemies. I even support talking to madman Ahmadinejad! I just think it's a bit far-fetched to say that progressives have their names written on all successful, practical foreign policy.

lots of conservatives do -- that was the point (however inartfully expressed) of my little disclaimer. i think there are lots of people who (like you) share that reality-based view.

the problem though is at the *institutional party* level. the modern gop is run by people who think you shouldn't. bush generally didn't until the very end. and mccain has run his entire campaign slamming the very idea of it. that's pretty good evidence of where it would go.

again, not saying pall rogs are so smart, conservatives are so wrong. i'm saying that the ideas currently held at an institutional party level by progressives have proven more effective than their gop counterparts.

and with that, to bed. (sorry for light posting lately -- i've been grading, dealing with school issues).

LT,

I honestly don't think my question was vague at all. I don't know how old you are, when you first learned that a country called Iraq exists, or when you began to have opinions one way or the other about it, but I assume it was before 2007. How long before, is what I was asking.

It's not a gotcha question. If your commitment to winning a war you were assigned to fight basically boils down to esprit de corps, that's fine. Honorable, even. But I was not asking about your views as a soldier, I was asking about your views as a citizen.

As a citizen, when did you decide that your country's safety, or even just its "interests", required the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Was it in the 1990s? Right after 9/11? When Dick Cheney spoke of mushroom clouds in 2002? When Colin Powell brandished a vial of "anthrax" at the UN in 2003? Most citizens can locate their first interest in "victory" in Iraq somewhere along that timeline.

--TP

I agree that we should talk to our enemies. I even support talking to madman Ahmadinejad!

I'll go with you partway; I think we should talk to the people who actually run Iran, but I'd prefer to accomplish that while bypassing that clown Ahmadinejad.

Petraeus also wanted to restart intelligence sharing with Syria, which the administration vetoed. May have changed the whole recent cross border issue.

LT Nixon, I have a son who also served in Iraq. He doesn't think our staying there is really , long term, achieving aything. Not an arguement, just to point out that serving there does not dictate one's feelings about it.

Also, to say that a withdrawal (which was never supposed to be immediate ) would have had serious (and I assume you mean negative) ramifications is a debatable position, but not ascertainable and there can be honest disagreements about that.

And nobody is saying everybody on the Left is pure as the driven snow. But the point of publius' post is that those in power on the "conservative" side is dominated by the non-realistic people whereas the progressives have people who have more practical reality based people in charge.

Afghanistan is going to be a factor for the next president. And with the election only one week away, getting the facts straight on foreign policy is extremely important. Here at Public Agenda we have put together a non-partisan guide on foreign policy at http://publicagenda.org/citizen/electionguides/iraq. We also published an article entitled “Eight Things You Need to Know About Foreign Policy.” You can check that out at http://publicagenda.org/blogs/voters-survival-kit-eight-things-you-need-know-about-foreign-policy. Thanks, again, for the great piece!

"Wasn't the "conservative" Kagan at AEI one of the architects of the surge strategy..."

LT, not to parse words, but I have a problem when people use "surge" in direct correlation with "strategy" and there is a reason beyond simple semantics.

The surge was a tactic used in conjunction with the "Awakaning" and Al Sadr's declaration of a cease fire (not for a second do I believe money did not change hands, but Al Sadr would be dead if that came out so the pay-off is buried pretty deep), all of which combined to produce very successful results.

But where has it gotten us? Sure, Iraq is now much less violent, but where are the political successes? The Iraqi parlaiment is no closer now, then it was then, to resolving any of the sticky points. Remember the "benchmarks"? How many have actually been met?

Elections? Next year... sometime... maybe... but definitely not in Kirkuk.
Oil revenue sharing? Not yet.
Etc, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, the Kurds and Maliki's gov't are facing off for a fight in Mosul, Maliki's gov't refuses to take any of the Sons of Iraq into the army and is in fact arresting many of them (especially the leaders) and Al Sadr is in Iran, taking his religous studies to the next level.... and waiting.

If the goal is a secure, stable, democratic Iraq... I fear there is no strategy that will get us to that goal, because it is not up to us. It is up to the Iraqi's, and they, the various players of the great game, have their own strategic goals, and none of them care whether we get what we want or not.

They are all playing for power, wealth, and position, in preperation for the inevitable day when we leave. We are puppets, and the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds are all fighting over the strings.

This is something the military has come to realize. This from yesterdays NYT: "If the Kurds and the Iraqi government forces fight, the American military will “step aside,” General Thomas said, rather than “have United States servicemen get killed trying to play peacemaker.”"

A little over a year ago, in the early days of the surge, I watched a boyhood friend of my sons get buried. I do not want his sacrifice (or those of the others I know who have gone and come back) to be for nothing.

And yet, it would seem, it already is.

If you limit yourself to an 8 year look back period and focus only on Iraq, you can conjure up this argument. How do you explain the end of the Cold War?

At some point, “sphere conservatives” need to provide some actual empirical evidence that their foreign and domestic policies actually work. If not, they need to make way for better conservative wonks who are more grounded in reality.

Good luck with that. A sphere conservative once said:

"“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality." (quoted by Ron Suskind)

With a mindset like that, reality will have to bite them over and over before they understand that reality does not bend to their will.

If you limit yourself to an 8 year look back period and focus only on Iraq, you can conjure up this argument. How do you explain the end of the Cold War?

You explain it by pointing to the efforts of progressives like Harry Truman, LBJ, Kennedy, and people on the right like IKE, Nixon and Ronald Reagan - who more or less adopted containment (Kennan/progressive) rather than rollback (right wing preference).

You should probably discuss the importance of Nixon going to China, and Reagan meeting Gorbachev and (against the Right's wishes) engaging him in a series of trust building exercises.

But ultimately, you explain it by highlighting that communism was a flawed system that collapsed under its own weight, and that we were far better off talking to our enemies throughout that process, and abstaining from war with the USSR.

LT:

Did Kagan author the Awakenings strategy?

Did he author Sadr's standown?

Did he author the grisly peace dividend earned from past sectarian cleansing?

And why, please inform me, was the Pelosi withdrawal plan so ill-advised? Isn't Maliki pushing us in that direction as we speak?

Please note: your use of "immediate" is a bit deceptive considering it was slated to take place over the course of roughly two years.

As for MoveOn, what does that have to do with whether or not the conservative approach to foreign policy has fared better, empirically, than the progressive?

Further, as mentioned upthread, discussion of the utility of The Surge depends on what happens next: peace-securing reconciliation, or a resumption of fighting.

But utimately, the real question is: was it smart to invade Iraq? Or not?

LT forgets that the Surge happened years after the occupation began not when it would have done the most good. Bush completely blew the occupation, that's why there's still a war going on in Iraq.

The end of the Cold War had much more to do with containment, and the Marshall plan's rebuilding Europe, and the further sucesses of Europe and American economies, which allowed us to out-produce the Soviet Union, and have their population watch the reality of what they had, compared to the reality of what we had, and prove that their government wasn't working. What Reagan and Bush I did well was to allow the Cold war to come down without flailing and war. And what Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II massively screwed up was helping Russia move to something besides totolitarian strongmen running the country.

The end of the Cold War had much more to do with containment, and the Marshall plan's rebuilding Europe, and the further sucesses of Europe and American economies, which allowed us to out-produce the Soviet Union, and have their population watch the reality of what they had, compared to the reality of what we had, and prove that their government wasn't working. What Reagan and Bush I did well was to allow the Cold war to come down without flailing and war. And what Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II massively screwed up was helping Russia move to something besides totolitarian strongmen running the country.

Sorry about the double post.

Tony P said I was asking about your views as a citizen. As a citizen, when did you decide that your country's safety, or even just its "interests", required the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Was it in the 1990s? Right after 9/11? When Dick Cheney spoke of mushroom clouds in 2002? When Colin Powell brandished a vial of "anthrax" at the UN in 2003?

To be honest with you, I was at OCS (officer boot camp) for a good period of 2002 and at Navy schools for most of 2003, so I didn't follow politics/current event too closely. I was out at sea a lot from '04-'06 and I didn't even know about the Swiftboat Kerry thing until my Dad told me about it on the phone when I got back from a deployment. So I was kind of in this information black hole, and I erroneously subscribed to the belief that you should trust the commander in chief as a military person and not have any political tendencies. I didn't even vote in '04. Shame on me, I know. But I started becoming interested in politics again in '07, so right around when the surge brigades were showing up in Iraq. Does that explain? I'm 28 btw.

I totally agree that we went into Iraq for the wrong reasons and the initial occupation was a clusterfnck. Paul Rieckhoff's book "chasing Ghosts" talks a lot about that from a soldier's perspective and it's an interesting read.

www.polly.ua

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