Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What to do about Iraq?

Last night I had a long discussion with a progressive friend about Iraq. He posed a thorny question- regardless of how I felt about the initial invasion, how do I feel about Bush's request to get funding and Congressional approval for an additional twenty thousand troops for the "stabilization" of Iraq?

I must admit that there are no easy answers to this question, as far as I'm concerned. My opposition to troop presence is based on reasons that have remained consistent throughout the entire period of US involvement. Therefore it's impossible to arbitrarily separate my pre-war opinion from what I'd like to see happen in the present. Yet my friend believes that it is necessary. While he was absolutely opposed to the occupation initially, he is now afraid of what will happen in the region if the US pulls its troops out of Iraq. His humanitarian side thinks that we have an obligation to stay until the situation is stable- becasuse (as commonly formulated) when we "broke" it, we assumed a corresponding responsibility to "fix" it. A more practical side of him suggests that the instability of Iraq could spill over its borders and affect other nations in the region. This... my friend further believes... could cause excalating crisis conditions, with tragic implications for the entire world.

Every once in awhile I find myself leaning toward a similar formation of the problem. It's tempting to believe that an indefinitely-sustained US troop presence could somehow do something to ameliorate the terrible conditions that the Iraqis face. If nothing else, they should be capable of assisting in the provision of more than six hours of electricity per day for those in Baghdad, where the largest concentration of American power is stationed. But this hasn't happened. What we have seen is almost four years of complete incompetency and failure on the part of the Bush administration. During this time, opposition to a new Iraqi government has only escalated... despite continued increases in troop levels and spending. There have been no specific objectives outlined, no articulated long-term strategy, and seemingly no systematic approach to a diplomacy that could promise order... let alone peace.

At this point I think it would be irresponsible to encourage a perception of confidence in the Bush administration's ability to bring about an acceptable resolution to a complex conflict that is inevitably spiraling further out of control. 20,ooo more troops... for what? To delay an admission of abject failure until 2008, when the situation becomes the problem of a future executive administration. If anything, we should begin a process of phased withdrawal. Whose benefit do we serve by continuing the occupation? We are encouraging the recruitment efforts of multiple local and regional parties that fight in resistance of a foreign, occupying power. We continue to fill the coffers of defense contractors, and the rest of the United States is left to bear the increasing costs of mismanagement.

I can see the case for retaining several military bases in Iraq... for purposes of emergency response. These would be used exclusively for damage control. Otherwise, control of the country needs to be completely turned over to its people. Blowback is inevitable at this point, no matter when the United States recedes from the disaster that Bush and Co. created. If anything, the administration should beg the international community to invest resources for diplomacy and peace missions. It is a condescending form of paternalism (at best) to think that the United States has any useful answers for a devastated nation on the brink of civil war. Yes... the Bush administration created the problem, and they aren't going to be able to provide a solution. That's certainly criminal, but exacerbating the crisis by leaving it in their hands would simply be compounding the guilt. All that can be done now is to minimize the US role in causing future harm.

There are larger questions impacting the psyche and future direction of the United States. This nation is at a turning point, and must choose between retaining some semblance of a representative democracy or descending permanently into a doomed tyrannical imperialism. The internal challenges we face are so significant, that we would be foolish not to turn inward. We must begin the task of preparation if we mean to have a chance of successfully negotiating the biggest threats of the 21st century. This is not a time for the continued export of outmoded paradigms. If we face this reality now, we may have the opportunity to serve as an example in the future. Otherwise we will serve merely as an object lesson for the emerging world-powers that will soon replace us.


Blogger Rob Park said...

I agree whole heartedly. But how do we start the introspective process in America?

This maybe ironic, however, mayve you should start posting ads to gain revenue for you insights. In other words, be a capitalist about this and amplify your voice.

I say this because I feel you're preaching to the choir. I know you have many other things on you plate but social introspection needs us to participate in the public sphere. Right now you voice is being drowned out by screaming rants.

You have more to offer than a quiet conversation among friends.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I think to some degree that you are correct. But you might be surprised to know the polutical afiliations of a few of the regular readers of this site. And even among "progressives", there is plenty of room for disagreement.

In addition, I know that you're aware of the type of place I spend a full third of my waking hours every week. I spend a lot of time interacting with folks of an entirely different stripe. While I don't share this exact conversation with them, this blog helps me get my thoughts together for those interactions.

I'd love to believe that I could garner more attention with ads... but fear that I would have to actually be buying ad space elsewhere to get increased attention here. I certainly don't have the funds for that.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

I'm not exactly a member of the choir. I am, however, open-minded to hearing all sides of a discussion, and am perfectly willing to adjust my opinions in the face of greater evidence.

I do agree with rob, however, that you should make an effort to have your work seen by a greater audience. Not sure if ads are the way to go.

6:44 AM  

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