Thursday, December 01, 2005It is easy to take cheap shots at the Bush administration about Iraq. God knows I've made them. But we can't just pretend the war didn't happen. No we shouldn't have gone in. My question for the war's critics is the question I always ask - what is your solution?
There is the extreme dove position - to just get out. Pack up and leave. The most likely result of this option is an immediate plunge into civil war, not to mention a disastrous effect on our international position in the world and severe damage to the Democratic Party.
The extreme hawk position is to stay until "the mission is accomplished." The problem of course is that we have never known what the mission is. As the rationale for the war has changed, the mission has had to change as a consequence. Weapons of mass destruction, removing a dictator, creating a U.S. ally, establishing a free, secular society, securing our oil supplies, the list goes on and on. Each aim brings with it a different set of requirements for "victory." Since the Bush administration, rather than selecting just one option, has embraced them all, we are now confronted with effectively unlimited objectives. This ambitious project - to create the Iraq of our dreams - necessitates an open-ended commitment that will last forever.
Then there are the moderate positions: a staged withdrawal based around either benchmarks or a timetable. The differences between the two are basically semantic. While this may seem like the most reasonable course of action, it fails a basic test of politics - it lacks any committed support. The doves won't like an extension of our involvement, while the hawks will see it as a defeat. If we had a sane politics, Bush would broker a bipartisan compromise with the leading Democrats in order to get us out while providing political cover for both sides. This won't happen, of course.
The unfortunate reality is that the Iraq war is most likely going to end in a civil war, the creation of an Iranian client state, another Saddam, or some combination of the three. Our only aim should be to extract ourselves from the situation with the least cost. The U.S. has precious little ability to control the situation in Iraq for good or ill. It is in domestic politics that the U.S. still has some choices to make. Regrettably it looks like our current administration seems determined to make the price a high one.