Monday, August 22, 2005Fact 1: Iraq is a mess.
Fact 2: We made the mess.
Fact 3: There is very little we can do to clean the mess up.
Question: What do we do now?
The answer to this question has broken into three camps. There is Dear Leader, who thinks that we just need to keep at it and everything will be okay (denying Fact 1). There is the "Hawk" wing of the Democratic party, who think that we can still salvage the situations (denying Fact 3). And there is the "Dove" wing that thinks we should just cut and run (ignoring the responsibility stemming from Fact 2).
I've been following this debate with a great deal of interest. On the one hand, the Doves have a lot of good arguments as to why we should cut our losses. The Iraq war is a diversion of U.S. resources (and a waste of lives), it has made us hated, it has accomplished none of its aims, and Iraq is likely to end up in civil war, an islamic state/Iranian puppet, or under the ruler of another Saddam. Therefore there are good humanitarian and prudential reasons for getting out as soon as possible.
On the other hand, the Hawks are not without a viable position. The U.S. bears some responsibility for what is going on, and an outright retreat would seriously damage U.S. prestige and cripple the Democratic party politically. The very people who opposed the war as foolhardy are now in danger of being blamed for its failure. It's not fair, but there it is.
I think there is some room for agreement. We can all agree that the Iraq adventure was a mistake, that it was badly bungled, and that the U.S. needs to extricate itself as soon as possible. We need to recognize that what we are fighting about are tactics. The reality is that we are not arguing about how to win the war, but what kind of defeat will do the least damage. And we need to keep reminding people who lost the war - not the people who opposed it, but the people who conducted the bloody thing.
The Hawks need to realize that the Doves were right about the war, and the Doves need to realize that this fact has no bearing on what we are facing now - we have to stop pretending we can turn back the clock. As such, the New Donkey manifesto seems like a workable compromise between the factions. It's not going to be implemented, but it would least remind the country that a) Democrats were against the war and how it was run, and b) make sure that the focus remains on the Republicans.
As for a fixed timetable for withdrawal, I'm afraid that it is the Republicans who are most likely to embrace this position - for October 30, 2006.