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6/05/2005

The Iraq question

How should Democrats deal with the Iraq issue? This is a genuinely perplexing question. Oliver Willis's take:

A lot of Democrats I respect like John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton, voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq. It's time for folks to just say that they were wrong, and that the president has us on a path that has led to more deaths for American soldiers, less safety for Iraqis, and a decreased capacity to defend our nation from terrorism. Democrats need to push for a coherent Iraq strategy, rather than simply to keep jawboning about how great everything is when people are getting blown up every day with no end in sight. Every day we are in Iraq it is making America less safe. I don't believe simply cutting and running with a massive pullout is a viable strategy, as Iraq is no closer to stable democracy today than it was a year ago, but we have to have something more coherent than simply standing around and getting blown up.

This is good stuff; the only nit I would pick is that I don't like the term "cutting and running." To me, this plays into the hands of the 'hawks', since it implies that forgoing any military action (such as the forcible occupation of another country) is somehow cowardly. I'm not sure what to do about Iraq, but certainly a quick pullout would have to be on the table, at the very least.

Now, it is certainly true that the US has a responsibility to the people of Iraq not to leave their country in a bloody civil war. But that's where it is anyway, and it's not clear that the US military presence is helping matters.

Plus, those who advocate a continued US presence in Iraq need to remember that this occupation will be carried out not by competent people who are truly concerned about the welfare of Iraq; it will be carried out by the Bush administration. This is the same mistake that was made by some pro-war Democrats before the invasion: they thought about the idea of 'liberating' Iraq in an abstract sense, and judged that the destruction of Saddam's regime was worth the price of the war this would require. But they failed to factor in one thing: the people who would be running this war didn't know what the fuck they were doing.

A war that might have been a good idea under an Al Gore administration is not necessarily a good idea under a George W. Bush administration. The same goes for an occupation that perhaps would have been the best option under a Kerry administration but might simply mean more destruction and misery for Iraq under a second Bush administration.


UPDATE: Just to be clear: I am not saying that the Iraq war would have been a good idea if Gore had been president, and I am not saying that the continued occupation of Iraq would necessarily be a good idea had Kerry been elected. My point was just that many Democrats seem to evaluate these matters without taking into consideration who is in charge. Whether or not a war is prudent and just is not something that can be decided without taking into consideration the parties that will be running the war. So it's odd to me that so many Dems who decry Bush's handling of Iraq nonetheless insist upon a continued US presence there, knowing that the occupation will be carried out by the same administration they criticize (rightly, in my view, but that's a separate point) as being incompetent and immoral in its execution of the Iraq mission up to now.

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