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 Franklinâ€™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.