Leading From Behind II

I missed Joe Biden’s op ed on Iraq yesterday, but the big breakthrough is that the Senator is boldly (snark) endorsing a timetable for withdrawal. He isn’t clear about what the timetable should be, mind you, but he thinks there ought to be one.

The Heretik sums it up
: Biden blows.

Perhaps it’s too much to ask our current crop of Dems in Washington to keep up with the rest of us. But it would be nice if some of them were only a few weeks behind, instead of months. Or years.

More interesting (in a road kill sort of way) are the apologists who denounce Biden. “The only timetable that matters is victory,” rumbles Captain Ed. That sounds grand, and we could probably take all the time we wanted if we were having our war in our own country. But since we’re having it in someone else’s country, and they’re fixin’ to kick us out, it’s about time to finish our drinks and find the car keys, so to speak.

And, frankly, Biden doesn’t suggest much that Bush isn’t about to do anyway.

But speaking of victory, I was taken by this post on a pro-war blog called No End But Victory. I’m sure the author, Aziz, and I do not see eye to eye on many things. But I appreciate the author’s honesty.

First, Aziz writes that since the threat of WMDs was the sole plank upon which the case for war was publicly made, the administration owes the American people an apology and a tangible reason — not mushy metaphors and empty slogans — for continued sacrifice. “Until the WMD daemon is excised, there can be no forward motion on rebuilding trust and will,” Aziz writes. “And public demand for withdrawal will only increase.”

The Bushies are firmly in the “end justifies the means” camp. We know that they played up WMD scare stories and links to al Qaeda to sell the war, even though they had other motives, most notably Neocon desires to spread American hegemony. And they also exploited Iraq as a handy-dandy weapon for bashing Democrats. But now the Bushies must repackage their war in order to re-sell it now that opposition is rising. If anything resembling a good result is still possible, that possibility is being sorely compromised by lack of trust in the Bushies.

The lesson here for future governments is that if you can’t get the public behind your real motives for going to war, you probably shouldn’t go.

Second, Aziz correctly notes that politics is driving policy.

The simple fact is that the Administration itself is preparing to withdraw significant fractions of our troops from Iraq. Even supporters have cause to question the motivation therein. The position of most Democrats, that a phased and benchmark-driven withdrawal is neccessary, has been both vilified by the Administration (including the Vice-President) even as they prepare to implement largely the same plans. If there was a real will to succeed, the Democrats would be brought to the table and a bipartisan effort at formulating a withdrawal timetable or benchmark set would be made. Such an effort, instead of attack-dog postures as usual, would create a genuine feeling that there is both a commitment to win and a sincere understanding of the pressures on the home front.

This is exactly right. Put another way, if success in Iraq were more important to the Bushies (and most of the GOP) than politics, bipartisan policy consensus would probably come pretty easily. The fact is that even last year during the presidential election campaigns, Kerry’s and Bush’s stated positions on Iraq were not exactly miles apart. The GOP made Kerry’s suggestions out out to be radically different from where Bush seemed to be going. But if you just look at statements and speeches both candidates made last year, there really wasn’t a big bleeping difference in what they were saying. And, frankly, all the Dems are doing now is describing the few options actually left to us.

A real leader would be bringing the parties together to create policy with bipartisan ownership. Instead, the Right continues to exploit Iraq as a wedge issue, even though the wedge is working against them. It’s all they know how to do.

Third, Aziz writes, “A clear sign of moral righteousness is needed to send a message to Iraqis that we are in a different league altogether from the terrorists who seek domination of their nation.”

If all parties agree that there is a war for hearts and minds, then we cannot rely solely on Al Qaeda to poison the well. We must not be passive, we must be proactive. For every Iraqi child killed by Al Q, we must also offer a tangible piece of evidence of our contrast in the positive. Rebuilding schools is neccessay, but not sufficient. There has yet to be an accounting of higher-level responsibility for Abu Ghraib, for example. The utter depravity of the pro-torture position has been implicitly endorsed by the Vice President rather than utterly repudiated. And the erosion of our civil liberties at home continues apace, with no tangible improvement in our security as conslation prize. The Padilla indictment is the perfect if not the latest example of how the Administration willingly embraces Franklin’s dictum of those who desire security over liberty deserve neither. Why should the public take the Administration at face value?

I’ve said before that we could win an overwhelming military victory in Iraq and still blow our political objectives. If the political objectives were to spread stability, democracy, and pro-Western sentiment in the Middle East — Neocons have claimed these as their objectives, anyway — then invading Iraq was an utterly ass-backward way to go about it. Our current course will not take us to that victory if we stay in Iraq for a century. Although most of ’em won’t admit it, both Democrats and Republicans are wrestling with the same question — what “victory” will we settle for before we withdraw? And both the President and Jack Murtha seem to have reached the same conclusion — “victory” means transferring responsibility for Iraq domestic security to Iraqis. And the only major point of disagreement is over time. What is the timetable?

Whether you are asking how long can we stay? or how quickly can we leave? may not matter. I think events and Iraqi politicians will decide on the timetable. All of our posturing and attacking across the political spectrum will prove to be pointless.

14 thoughts on “Leading From Behind II

  1. This reminds me of your earlier post about Hillary Clinton, just like Joe Biden, they both have their finger in the air checking to see which way the wind blows before “courageously” stating a position. The Democrats don’t only need to clean out the Republicans from Washington, but the wishy washy Democrats who do not want to be part of an opposition party, but instead take care of numero uno and their own little piece of the political pie. I wish they would get rid of the damned political consultants and use some common sense, also get rid of the polls and instead listen to their own constituents. Don’t they understand that polls can be skewed, or that the ‘right’ questions aren’t asked? They would be better off getting volunteers or hiring people to monitor sites like this, or reviewing their own emails. It wouldn’t be hard to weed out the astro turf from the real opinions of their constituents.

  2. What is captain ed the captain of the titantic?Is it possible that this person believes what he writes or are people who write like that floating trial balloons for future spin?It would be so nice , JUST ONCE , to see a rightie blog that was not totally void of thought and reason, much less reality..

    Something I didn’t notice on the rethuglican blogs was their shame with bush for helping the enemy by floating a draw down plan.Can someone tell me ,what happened in rightie world in the few days between when Murtha took to the senate floor and when they announced there was a draw down plan in the works ,that could be considered a victory in iraq?

    Maybe mean jean needs to give bush the pep talk about not cutting and running??Let me get this straight,,,,when Murtha wants us out of iraq he is a coward and he wants to help the enemy,but less then a week later when the white house wants to get out thats ok?….all the sudden setting a timetable just stopped being helpful to the terrorists like magic?Bush lead us to believe if we set a date to leave the insurgents would just wait for that day and declare victory, and this has changed how??? did the insurgents and bush play lets make a deal or what?

    Also most everyone I know(myself included) wants the troops to come home BUT I am worried about drawing down our numbers.IMHO leaving less then 100,000 troops in country is making them more likely to be sitting ducks then they already are .

    I think we all need to remember in viet nam in the first 3 years we had lost less troops then we have in iraq in the same amount of time…so when people say Iraq is going well given the number of troops lost compared to the 58,000 we lost in Nam they are not being realistic or honest about our current situation or our past.

    Suppose they are telling the truth and they intend to bring home 40-50 k troops…Now put yourself into the boots of one of the troops left behind..it can’t be a comforting feeling to be even more out numbered then before in a region our policies have turned upside down. Just say there are 3 million in bagdad alone.. and we have 130k troops in all of iraq…I am in no mood for the math, but lets just say the troops are already WAY out numbered IF they were only trying to hold bagdad…The iraqi people HAVE to be sick of this..the insurgents never seem to stop coming and they can only be encouraged by the thought of fewer people in numbers to fight,,,I don’t like where the situation has the potential to end up for our troops at all.

    I agree our troops need to come home but how ? And at what cost? Real sad serious thought is called for here because we are in a very bad situation thanks to Bush and now we have to consider things like if we bring 10,20,30,40 thousand home we may lose the numbers we did in viet nam or more..It makes me sick to consider,just sick..but it is time Americans wake up and THINK about this .Murtha was way ahead of the curve here I assume he has thought deeply about it and that is at least in part , where his view of a total withdrawl stems from.
    Leaving the iraqi/insurgent/ to troops ratio with an even larger gap , i fear , will be even more deadly for the troops then where we are now.Are we willing to risk thousands to get back thousands(who will then be sent back to replace those lost)?

    How can there ever be victory in a war based on lies , and who wants to ask a man to be the the next or last one to die for it?

  3. Churchill pouted for years about a defeat; not because of the lives his mistakes caused but because of the damage to his image.

  4. The only victory i’ll see coming out of Iraq is when Bush is totally exposed to his deceptions and lies. I agree with Aziz..Bush has to fess up in order to proceed on a path resembling anything like victory.

    I read today that the Shites are champing at the bit to get a piece of the Sunnies, and when they are released, every atrocity they commit will be covered with the mantle of” fighting terrorism”.Bush and his propaganda machine have blurred the lines of understanding to the point where a reasonable asessment of the Iraqi situation is difficult to achieive;but I feel confident to say Bush isn’t going to change the face of Islam with his visions of democracy. We need to get out of Iraq and work on ourselves if we want victory.

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  6. Bush had victory in his hands and pissed on it. He went to Iraq for WMD and Saddam. Our millitary searched with the help of judy and verified there were no WMD. Bush got Saddam, his sons, moved the faimly some where, and rounded up just about everyone involed in Saddams government. At that point the mission was accomplished….what has followed is pure BS.

  7. Please everybody, just blow off all expectation of this debacle not being “remembered as a national embarrassment”. Of course that’s how it will be remembered, and rightly so. Perhaps we can haggle a bit over the precise depth of our collective disgrace, but that’s about it.

    Maybe it is just as well. Obviously we, as a nation, are incompetent at imperialism. I propose that we return to our core competence; democracy.

  8. Of course that’s how it will be remembered, and rightly so.

    Remembered, hell. It IS a national embarrassment and has been from the beginning.

  9. Right again, Maha. The question is, can we keep this tar baby attached firmly to the Bush administration’s fingers, and deny the apologists and political cowards their frenzied efforts to rewrite this in order to (a) save their reputation and (b) keep the republicans in power?

    That’s what worries me now. I mean, the White House just said that their pullout plan was remarkably similar to Congressman Murtha’s.


  10. If this nation is ever to get back on track all those who supported this war, all those who allowed the Bushists to evicerate the accompolishments of decades of progressive progress wether they are “Dems” or “ReThuglicans” need to be removed from office.

    My comment and ones similar are starting to appear at many blogs. This could become the new meme: Throw the bastards who let this happen out!

    All of them, starting with Biden and Kerry.

  11. Hmmmm interesting idea A , however I think it would be a fun concept , just for a change to hold those in charge of everything accountable ,,,and ahhh,, what party is running things again?
    While I have my share of frustration with the “dems”, I dont recall Biden or Kerry “cooking” intell in their very own homemade spy agency the OSP..I don’t recall Biden or Kerry ignoring the CIA or other nations intell that proved some of the cooked intell untrue..
    I think Biden and Kerry made their vote based on the cooked up intell the white house fed them.If I recall correctly at the time bush had also acted as though he would let inspectors do their work and that ,basically the consent of congress was leverage to let saddam know America meant business.
    Those who voted for the war made their big mistake in trusting the president to bring honest intell to the table when making a case for war.
    Yes by all means lets fire those who bought the lie rather than talk about the liars that told it to begin with…

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