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Friday, August 24, 2007

Baird Op/Ed in Seattle Times

posted by on August 24 at 10:48 AM

I had hoped to run an op/ed against troop withdrawal by Washington U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-3, Vancouver) in the Stranger next week. I pitched the idea to his office shortly after the longtime anti-war liberal came out against withdrawal from Iraq last week. I wanted Stranger readers to hear Rep. Baird out.

Well, Baird published an editorial in The Seattle Times today. So, I’m not going to run it in our paper. However, I want to direct our readers to it. Baird makes the point that haunts every liberal who advocates withdrawal:

From a strategic perspective, if we leave now, Iraq is likely to break into even worse sectarian conflict. The extremist regime in Iran will expand its influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Terrorist organizations, the people who cut off the heads of civilians, stone women to death, and preach hatred and intolerance, will be emboldened by our departure. In the ensuing chaos, the courageous Iraqi civilians, soldiers and political leaders who have counted on us will be left to the slaughter. No American who cares about human rights, security and our moral standing in the world can be comfortable letting these things happen.

I think Baird’s main point is suspectóhe argues that the surge appears to be workingóbut even if he’s wrong about that, the paragraph above is still true.

I don’t know what to do about Iraq. I editorialized against the war repeatedly, and I think it’s the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. However, I think Baird’s concerns have to be addressed before the U.S. leaves.

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Great, now they've got the Ds saying "embolden." I am so goddamn sick of that word.

Posted by Levislade | August 24, 2007 10:55 AM

The same things are happening with us there -- just in slow motion.

Besides, remember, if predictions about withdrawl from Vietnam had come true, all of Asia would be communist by now...

Posted by Orv | August 24, 2007 11:05 AM

From a strategic perspective, if we stay in Iraq, Iraq is likely to break into even worse sectarian conflict. The extremist regime in Iran will expand its influence in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Terrorist organizations, the people who cut off the heads of civilians, stone women to death, and preach hatred and intolerance, will be emboldened by our weakness. In the ensuing chaos, the courageous Iraqi civilians, soldiers and political leaders who have counted on us will continue to be slaughtered. No American who cares about human rights, security and our moral standing in the world can be comfortable letting these things happen.

C'mon Josh, you can't still believe that our presence is holding the lid on anything any more, do you?

Posted by thehim | August 24, 2007 11:06 AM

@2 - Pol Pot (mentioned on Slog twice today!) ring any bells? Sure, I know he was in Cambodia, but our lack of any sort of presence surely was a sign he could get away with anything. Well, that and all the weapons we gave him. Any idea how many Vietnamese died after we fled? I don't either - honest question.

@3 - I suspect that it does, if only as a temporary diversion target. Wait, maybe we should leave.

Posted by Robert McNamara | August 24, 2007 11:12 AM

I'm sorry, did I miss something? Are all those people, "terrorist organizations, the people who cut off the heads of civilians, stone women to death, and preach hatred and intolerance," not already active and essentially unchecked there?

I know our presence is making things worse. As soon as we're gone, the nationalist elements of the insurgency will lose their reson d'etre, and the hundreds of powers carving out their fiefs quietly through death squads will come out into the open, and establish their territories firmly. The latter will cause an orgy of violence that will leave thousands dead, but after that, there should be established powers who will have actual influence in Iraq's future, as opposed to impotent actors like their parliament. But all of this is happening anyhow. We might as well let the process happen, and lose fewer of our own blood and treasure along the way.

Posted by Gitai | August 24, 2007 11:15 AM

"In the years before Pol Pot's 1975 rise to power, U.S. forces bombed and ran secret ground incursions into Cambodia, ostensibly to go after North Vietnamese forces who were taking refuge in that country and using it to stage attacks against Americans in neighboring Vietnam.

"The result -- open war between a U.S.-backed government in Cambodia and insurgents backed by North Vietnam -- destabilized Cambodia "and opened the door to Pol Pot and the genocide that was carried out by his followers and the Khmer Rouge," said Steven Simon, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies with the Council on Foreign Relations. "These things happened because the United States left too late, not because the U.S. left too early."


Posted by Orv | August 24, 2007 11:20 AM


And then we refused to do anything to help the Cambodians because we were bogged down in Vietnam.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 24, 2007 11:32 AM

@6, oh sure use the Council on Foreign Relations...

Thanks for setting me straight. Now, if I hadn't greenlighted the Edsel...

Posted by Robert McNamara | August 24, 2007 11:33 AM

Didn't they tell us for a decade that if we failed in Vietnam then all of Asia would become communists and Hawaii, too? Instead, communist Russia collapsed and Southeast Asia and China transformed into a hybrid communist/capitalist power structure.

Aren't we being told these same lies over and over again by people that are wrong 100% of the time?

The breathtaking gullibility and grotesque stupidity of the American government and public continues to amaze me.

And where exactly are the troops for our endless occupation and GWOT going to come from?

Why will no one answer that question?

Posted by Original Andrew | August 24, 2007 11:49 AM

It seems we can't know what will happen if we leave. It may very well be the worst case scenario, but whether we stay 1 year or 10, that scenario is still likely to play out. I'd think the real question is what is best for all parties in the long term? We may have to go back in a few years to fight the beast we've borne. However, it also seems likely that at that time we would be in a better position internationally. If all hell breaks loose, the 1st to be consumed will be the countries in the region. Most of which will be more inclined to assist out of their own self-interest. The other major parties in the world will also not be able to sit on the sidelines as their own interests are threatened. What we have now is the diminishment of America which serves the interest of those outside our borders.

Posted by jonesey | August 24, 2007 11:50 AM

it's generally agreed upon that more vietnamese died during the war than after our withdrawal.

Posted by bing | August 24, 2007 11:51 AM

None of this matters right now. There is no way Bush will EVER leave Iraq, September reports yadda yadda notwithstanding.
This is something the next prez will have to deal with, and by then the surge's outcome will be quite clear.
Let's debate this a year from now.

Posted by calvin | August 24, 2007 11:54 AM

Whether we leave now or in 10 years, the aftermath will be ugly. The only difference? Less American lives lost, and less people killed by American soldiers.

By staying longer, we are only delaying the inevitable.

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 24, 2007 11:59 AM

The liberal hand-wringing about the effects of a withdrawal from Iraq is just nauseating. The bloodbath is already happening. It's been happening for going on five years. There's nothing we can do to stop it. We can slow it down (by sacrificing more of our own military to death and dismemberment), but we can't stop it. The one thing we can do to save lives is to raise the limits on the number of Iraqis allowed to emigrate to the US. The rest is fruitless agonizing over the inevitable, and fruitless agonizing over our guilt in creating the bloodbath. Well, we're stuck with the guilt too. Prolonging the bloodbath won't make the guilt go away.

Posted by Randy | August 24, 2007 11:59 AM

absent the presence of the infidel american troops, al Q in iraq has no motive to terrorize the iraqi populace. they'll head on over to afganistan & join the fray there.

the sectarian partition will be bloody, but to a significant degree it is already complete. over a million internally displaced, and over a million exiled. neighborhoods turned into ghost towns. about 10% of the populace has relocated.

bush, as always, is full of shit. and when i comes down to it, americans don't give a fuck about iraqi or muslim lives, anyway. ours are more precious.

when the oil starts coming out of the ground, we can buy it from whomever. if we still have an economy.

Posted by maxsolomon | August 24, 2007 12:16 PM

I think Josh and Baird are right. Once we kill or imprison enough Iraqis everyone will calm down and we'll avoid a serious human rights issue! I think the magic number is 10 million.

Posted by jamier | August 24, 2007 12:42 PM

The "chaos" will occur whenever US withdraws, we are simply delaying the inevitable. In the meantime more American and Iraqi lives are lost then necessary.

What's not being said is that the MILITARY is not the solution. We can withdraw portions of the military and replace with people who know how to "nation build." Leaving the military will only lead to more war (that's what soldiers do). You want peace and stability, but in nation builders (diplomats, technocrats, economists, etc.). Also, let the locals figure out their problems.

I understand US started the problem, but keeping US there will not solve it. It's like asking the burglar to fix the window they broke while entering. Stupid. Throw burglar out and hire a window fixer.

Posted by Medina | August 24, 2007 2:05 PM

He does have half a point. It is true that if we pull out, there is a good likelihood that things in Iraq will get worse, and chaos could ensue. In the end, whatever government emerges will likely be very anti_USA. This is all true.

But what he fails to address is that our continued presence there is not helping. In fact, our presence there may be making things worse than if were had left a year or two ago. Our staying may not prevent anything. At best, our staying there will simply delay the inevitable.

Yes, Iraq is fucked up. Yes, if we leave, things might get even more fucked up.

But I haven't heard anybody make the case that our continued presence there will actually solve anything, or make anything better, in the long run. At best, they are simply hoping that if we keep enough troops there long enough that somehow a peaceful society and pro-USA government will magically emerge.

Meanwhile our troops are getting killed in ever growing numbers, we are bankrupting our own government, and Iraqis are slaughtering each other at will.

Posted by SDA in SEA | August 24, 2007 2:54 PM

The only thing the US can do in Iraq is to keep spending lives and money postponing the inevitable. The way for Iraq to move past this civil war is to let it happen, the sooner the better.

If there is ever to be order in Iraq, we must accept that chaos will come first.

Posted by Sean | August 24, 2007 2:57 PM

I'm up with a full response at EffU:

Posted by thehim | August 24, 2007 3:29 PM

Sooner we leave, sooner they start dealing with it. Longer we stay, more that die before they start dealing with it, and the more of our kid's Social Security we borrow to pay for this Quagmire.


Posted by Will in Seattle | August 24, 2007 3:34 PM

oh, and I'll believe my Vietnamese friends - both who were kids when Saigon fell - rather than the Combat-avoider-in-Chief and his group of morons.

They think he's on drugs.

They're probably right.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 24, 2007 3:50 PM

The problem in Iraq is political, and it cannot be solved with military force. What's more, our military presence is not helping us achieve a political solution, and there's no conceivable idea of how it would ever help us achieve a political solution.

We're not making things better, and we're probably making things worse. We need to withdraw militarily and engage in diplomacy to achieve a regional political solution. Violence will happen in any case, but the scope and duration of that violence can be minimized if we really act in favor of a political solution. But for that to happen, we have to openly reject big power, geostrategic aims such as controlling access to oil, rebuilding Iraq at corporate profit, stationing new bases in the region, or telling the Iraqis what their government looks like even if we think we're being well-intentioned.

Posted by Cascadian | August 24, 2007 4:43 PM

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