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Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Lamont & Lessons for Cantwell

Posted by on August 9 at 10:26 AM

In my opinion, any analysis piece on the Lamont victory that does not mention this quotation…

“It’s time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years,” Lieberman said, “and that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.” The implication that there is something wrong with criticizing George W. Bush is unacceptable to most Democrats, who believe that Bush himself has done the most to undermine his own credibility. [This take from E.J. Dionne’s column last week.]

… is missing the real issue here. The primary victory for Lamont was not a referendum on the war. It was a referendum on an incumbent arrogant enough to try to curtail his constituents’ freedom of speech.

I didn’t support the war. I think Cantwell’s vote was way off the mark (even more unforgivable, from my point of view, were her votes for the PATRIOT Act). But reasonable people have a right to disagree on this point, especially since we’re already in Iraq and neither party has a good exit strategy. (Sorry, peaceniks, but “Troops out now” isn’t going to cut it.) What’s absolutely not okay, however, is the insinuation that anyone is unpatriotic for saying Bush isn’t credible. DUH: Bush misled the country on WMDstherefore, he’s no longer credible. The above quote was everywhere last week and over the weekend. And voters don’t like to be treated like sheep.

That’s where the Cantwell analogy fails to hold. She’s never said anything so ridiculous and politically suicidal.

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Another thing to note about Cantwell's voting record is that she is a not a senator for Seattle; she is a senator for the entire state of Washington. Eastern and Western Washington have to compromise and get a Senator they can both live with, unlike CT which is pretty much blue all the way across.

That's the fun thing about our Iraq adventure: the world is a gift shop with a "you break it, you bought it" policy. We OWN Iraq now, and we -- all of "we", not just a handpicked set of villains in the White House -- are responsible for it. No good answers? Hmm. Bummer for us, then. There are no good choices.

Any Democrat who doesn't get this is doomed even more so than the "keep-the-faith" Republicans.

Our troops are doing a wonderful job being responsible for Iraq. Yeah, right, really keeping things together.

We can be against the war, pro-troop withdrawal, and thus be better at being responsible for the chaos in Iraq than we are now. We need some diplomats that can get the rest of the world involved in Iraq and we need some diplomats between Israel and Lebanon and the Palestinians.

There are zero diplomats in the current administration; yes, I am hand-picking them as sucking extremely hard at being diplomats.

Iraq was already filled with sectarian hate, and our president removed the iron hand that kept that country together. Things there will take their course now, and however responsible we try to be by forcing peace (by killing insurgents that are also civilians) is more than patronizing to the citizens of Iraq that have been waiting for this opportunity to grab power and oppress their opponents in a way they think their opponents deserve.

(Sorry about the run-on sentence there.)

FNARF - we've been "owning" Iraq for LONGER than the entire War Against Germany in WW II - and are almost at the WW II mark for the War Against Japan.

Give it a rest, time to declare victory and leave. Any Dem who doesn't grok that deserves to be kicked to the curb.

Besides, those who sleep with the Bushies, leave with the Bushies.

You're misreading me. I didn't say we were obligated to stay. I only said that leaving now is not a good option. Because there ARE NO good options.

But any Democrat who says "well, it's nothing to do with me, I didn't invade the place" is never going to win anything.

As long as you are a citizen of this country what happened to Iraq will be your responsibility, and mine. That is the true measure of Bush's error: the damage he has done to ALL OF US.

oh, hey, found a better analysis piece in TIME - linked from CNN - you might check it out.

And leaving now is the best option. It was the best option two years ago. It will be the best option when we're forced out on helicopters too.

Better to leave sooner and save face than stay longer and make it worse.

if you still don't get it, you never will - but then, you're probably one of those combat-avoiders that never served, if I don't miss my guess.

What Audrey said in comment 1. She's got to answer to voters outside of Seattle as well, so being a hard-line lefty and playing to the wants or hardline lefties could cost her the seat in her next election. At the same time, her stance doesn't necessarily cost her her seat, as while you guys howl bloody murder, the rest of the state may be perfectly okay with her handling of the situation.

I fail to understand how leaving "immediately" isn't an option. Annie offers us a portion of our daily Stranger snark-quotent with "(Sorry, peaceniks, but “Troops out now” isn’t going to cut it.) "; I'm wondering what she - or the others who maintain this position - offer? What vision of success or victory do they have in their heads, and how do they imagine we get there from our current position?

Is there a single metric (oil exports, the stability of utilities in Bagdad, a stable government with growing influence, a declining daily body-count) that isn't trending the wrong way? What is the imagined American role to correct this?

It is apparent from the re-re-deployment of the bulk of American troops to Bagdad that we don't have enough troops in Iraq to hold whatever territory we "stabilize".

I don't believe that Republicans will introduce the draft before the next presidential election - and that's the only way we'd have enough troops to bulk up our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (which we're loosing our hold on).

Even if we _did_ increase the number or troops in Iraq, they cannot pursue an effective counter-insurgency without massive civilian causalities. Causalities that will preclude pacification of the population. We are seen as an occupational force, and our presence undermines the authority of the Iraqi government.

Additionally you have such factors as our diplomatic ineptness precludes limiting foreign support of the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan; witness the current Israel / Lebanon debacle and our inability to effectively curtail Israel's self-destructive actions.

In short - what good will our continued presence accomplish? For the life of me, the only thing I see reflected in the desire to stay is GUILT. And that's fine as it goes, but it is wrong to attempt to assuage that guilt by offering up the lives of American soldiers until things get so bad in the region that we can leave without too much embarrassment.

"Troops Out Now!" isn't a good option - it's only the best of one remaining to us. Personally, I think the best option is engineering for a "special referendum" or whatever and have the current Iraqi government demand an immediate US withdrawal - and then withdraw. Things will still be violent, and we'll probably end up with an Iranian client-state bound in Sharia, but it'd the best gift to legitimize those currently in power.

The war was obviously stupid (thanks Bush), but I think we owed it our best chance to try and stabilize Iraq. Unfortunately, Bush made a few other dumb moves (only providing 1/2 the troops needed to secure the place, disbanding the Iraqi army and thereby immediately creating a well-armed and organized insurgency). So as it stands now, imho, Iraq will dissolve into civil war no matter when we leave. Unless we stay and help carve Iraq into 3 or 4 mini-states (ala Yugoslavia), I guess we may as well get out now and let them get at their much-desired civil war.

Cantwell also reached out to the anti-war left and ultimately got her primary challenger to endorse and join her staff. While she may not have the views many dems would prefer her to have, she also isn't going around saying they're giving aid and comfort to the terrorists for daring to disagree with her.

good point, Aexia.

FNARF Wrote:
"As long as you are a citizen of this country what happened to Iraq will be your rsponsibility, and mine."

Nah! I'm not walking around with that rotting albatross strung around my neck, Fnarf. I have enough guilt to contend with. Let's leave the guilt and blame where guilt and blame lie..Bush, Cantwell and the intellects of their ilk who decided our interests were best represented by invasion and an attempt to assert their political will. Vote'em out of office and your sins will be absolved.


John, pulling out right now would completely collapse what little Iraqi infrastructure there is, send the region into a death spiral and literally turn Iraq into a war zone not unlike the ones that African countries have turned into.

Such an act of supreme irresonsibility would be a huge political and socioeconomic (well, for the region, at least) disaster and would likely start World War III on its own.

13 (Gomez): "Turn Iraq into a war zone" ... "act of supreme irresponsibility would be a huge political and socioeconomic (well, for the region, at least) disaster"

Right - and we'd notice the difference ... how? We're at 100 dead a day - bombings, shootings, daylight kidnappings - we can't even keep Saddam's lawyers alive. And it already _was_ irresponsible and it _is_ a disaster! It already is! What are you waiting for? Are you going to split hairs about whether it is a "full" civil war yet or not? Is there some sort of unit converter on the web where we can plug in bodies per day and daylight vs. deathsquad killings and single vs. multiple bombs normalizing for suicide vs. more-sophisticated-remote-triggered devices?

But that's really beside my original point. I realize that I went on a bit in my first post, but in the first paragraph I asked (I'll rephrase it here) - "What do you hope to accomplish, and what makes you think we can still accomplish it?"

Aside from stopping the occasional bullet, what are our troops accomplishing? Making sure the transition into a full civil war isn't too sudden?

Do you think that we'll solve the problem by partitioning Iraq? Ignoring the fact that such post war partitions got us here in the first place and continue not to work in Africa, there's the twin problems of Turkey's opposition to any sort of Kurdistan and that the oil of the region isn't spread around equally so unless you gerrymander the partitions Texas-style one or two of them won't have any sort of economy to speak of.

That sounds stable.

So really - aside from vague assertions that things could be worse, and ignoring that they're getting worse every day in spite of our continued presence - what sort of plan is our continued presence in Iraq moving forward? What progress are we making?


There is no plan, John.

This administration makes it seems like the only options are staying the course or pulling out.

Another option would be some diplomacy to try to involve other countries and get them to send some troops. Our troops cannot win this alone - they are outnumbered. Other countries in the Middle East and beyond have interests that would benefit from a peaceful Iraq. We need to step back and do the coalition-building that Bush never did before he declared war. It would take some extreme diplomacy, and it won't happen until 08, because there are zero diplomats in this administration. Seriously, none of the people up top can negotiate with anyone. We will need to show some humility and make some deals to get some help in Iraq.

Until 2008, when hopefully someone will some diplomacy skills will be elected, the best we can do is get a Dem majority and impeach Bush for lying about WMD.

It's too bad for the troops - for now, they are outnumbered, standing around like sitting ducks, with no support from anyone, and they probably know it.

On the other hand, perhaps this is destined to turn out like the former Yugoslavia - civil war might be inevitable, and eventually Iraq will be 3 separate countries.

But I don't think so, because I think only some parts of Iraq are oil-rich. So if oil remains as profitable as it is now, no one will give that up to become in separate nations.

sigh, this is what you get when you let incompetent fools run things.

As recently as late June I was advocating to keep troops in Iraq in the hopes that they would be able to maintain civil order while the various factions worked their way around to a comparatively orderly devolution.

The last month has made it pretty clear that this best-case outcome is just not going to come about. Iraq will break up, it's going to be bloody and horrifying, it's going to take a long time, and it's going to significantly destabilize the region. Whatever stabilizing force American troops can exert on the situation is offset by the enmity of the Iraqi populace toward a Western occupying army. The only way to force stability on the region would be to radically increase troop levels and, like John said, the only way to increase troop levels enough would be to institute a draft.

To be clear, I'm not some "peacenik" who's been demanding "troops out now" since the conflict started. My position on this has changed as the situation has evolved and at this point, to my reading, things have gone beyond the point of no return. Barring a massive intervention from a large (genuinely) international coalition-- and keeping in mind that such an intervention would only allow the inevitable to happen with less bloodshed --we pretty much just have to pull back and let it happen in Iraq like we eventually did in Vietnam. The region will self-stabilize-- after a lot of bloodshed and misery and probably with Iran's influence significantly expanded.

Audrey-- While I take a certain cynical pleasure in your ability to type, "It's too bad for the troops," from 18,000 miles away from he conflict, it should be obvious that this situation isn't going to remain remotely static until 2008. And, cynical pleasure aside, suggesting that we feed soldiers into a meat grinder for two and a half more years in the hopes that a competent president can convince the rest of the world to help us clean up a mess we created is, frankly, appalling.

Tom Hayden just returned from a Mideast conference, and posts a debrief in The Nation on why even getting out is harder than it looks:

Iraq Is Dying

it's broke, we own it and we will never, ever, ever fix it. Every day we stay we just makes it worse, both there and throughout much of the rest of the world.

So what do we do? How about buy our way out? Write every man, woman and kid in Iraq a check for ten grand and split.

That would cost us a little north of 260 billion (or 26 months at our current spending rate) and help ease the liberal guilt for having destroyed a society.

With us gone and everyone with ten large in their pockets, maybe everyone will go on a spending spree...or just get the hell out of dodge as fast as they can.

Joshua - You must need meds to read the news everyday, you are way to easily "appalled."

Staying in Iraq for a few more years isn't an idea I just came up with yesterday. But it's what I think is going to happen, because I can't imagine that Bush will leave Iraq while he's in office. I'm not at all opposed to pulling the troops out, pulling them out today. But a lot of other people think that leaving the few Iraqi civilians that want and appreciate our protection for what it's worth, after we disbanded their army, is, well, "appalling."

Well, John, the alternative you're suggesting, cutting and running, isn't much better. All of Iraq's infrastructure is essentially held up by the US. Given the attacks, the Iraqi people at least still have some sense of infrastructure of stability. The problem here is taking forward steps to permanently stabilize the region's government, which Bush has done absolutely nothing to do.

Cutting and running turns a tenuous situation into absolute anarchy, which will result in WAY more deaths than you're seeing now.

But I guess that's okay as long as Americans aren't involved, right?

22 (Gomez): "... isn't much better"

Isn't much better is still (wait for it) better. There is _no_ good way out of this debacle; only a small number of bad grim choices.

22 (Gomez): "still have some sense of infrastructure of stability (sic)"

Hmm. Can you cite something here? Because that reads like the conviction of someone who's a long, comfortable ways away from the car-bombs, daylight shootings, and militia roadblocks. I'm pretty sure that no one there would use the word "stability" to describe the current situation. I haven't been there myself either, but I know from experience that Capitol Hill was wandering around in a daze as a result of two shootings a few months ago - two shootings that involved, what, like 20 people total? A week ago some folks were shot downtown and it freaked everyone out. Now imagine a few car-bombs A DAY in Seattle - have gangs SUCCESSFULLY take out entire police stations - have groups blocking off Denny and Broadway and just pulling people out of their cars and shooting them - you think that after a year or so of that people here would refer to their "sense of infrastructure of stability?"

22 (Gomez): "taking forward steps to permanently stabilize the region's government"

The problem isn't "taking forward steps to permanently stabilize the region's government" - it's that NO ONE knows what those "steps" would be. I suggested a cynical manipulation of public perception in allowing the current Iraqi government to be seen to have some authority over the US forces by "making" them withdraw - thereby opening the slightest chance that the current regime would be seen as legitimate, and not simply a puppet state of the US.

You summarize this as "cutting and running", and repeat the phrase for emphasis. Thanks - I appreciate all the thought that went into your reply. That's catchy - you should think about making that a t-shirt or something.

I repeat (and you fail to address) that there is not one positive-trended development coming out of Iraq. The current debate is limited to whether we should call the conflict a "civil war" is a grim echo of the tussle a few months ago as to whether the mainstream press could refer to "insurgents" - remember that? It was just before Cheney was sneering about the insurgency being "in the last throws".

You also fail to address the idea that it is the very presence of American forces that is giving the insurgency the popular support that it needs.

Your "plan" is that other Americans stay there and die. They should just stand around and slowly get picked off to save the current administration the embarrassment of admitting to a mistake.

22 (Gomez): "Cutting and running turns a tenuous situation into absolute anarchy, which will result in WAY more deaths than you're seeing now ... But I guess that's okay as long as Americans aren't involved, right?"

Given that there's no plan to stop this "tenuous situation" from turning into anarchy eventually - You know what? YES. If there is going to be a big pile of corpses somewhere anyway, I'd just as soon it didn't have a bunch of Americans mixed into it. Given that we're not accomplishing anything, that the most likely outcome is a "Shia Crescent" covering Iraq and Iran and Syria, that to further this war we're selling submarines to PAKISTAN - the very country that gave the NUKES TO IRAN in the first place, that NONE OF THIS has ANYTHING to do with the events of 9/11, YES - I would rather that our troops were out of there - I would rather that they weren't dying in a pointless conflict that advances NONE of our countries interests.

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