Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Easy Answer to Iraq

Rich Lowry and William Kristol seemed to have missed a memo somewhere when they put together this op-ed on how we can win in Iraq:

The bottom line is this: More U.S. troops in Iraq would improve our chances of winning a decisive battle at a decisive moment. This means the ability to succeed in Iraq is, to some significant degree, within our control. The president should therefore order a substantial surge in overall troop levels in Iraq, with the additional forces focused on securing Baghdad.

That's the third paragraph of the piece. I read the rest of it, looking for the inevitable discussion on where these troops would come from, or how the American people could be persuaded to sacrifice more lives for the war in Iraq. I was only mildly surprised when I saw that there was no discussion of that at all.

I enjoy reading Kevin Drum, and one of the things I've most enjoyed is him repeatedly calling out conservatives and other supporters of the war who criticize the idea of withdrawal, but offer no solution of their own in return. He does this because the critics of the critics are intellectually dishonest; they talk as if the people advocating withdrawal have wholly blinded themselves to what will happen in Iraq when we leave, and they never say exactly what it is we should be doing to reverse Iraq's long slide to civil war. So I almost want to give Kristol and Lowry credit for at least proposing a real solution...except that many, many people who have thought very seriously about what we're supposed to be doing in Iraq, long-ago realized that the American people were not going to tolerate anything approaching the type of commitment that would be necessary (i.e., a draft) to send enough soldiers to make any difference in Iraq. That's why you don't hear...well, anyone, talking about increasing forces as a solution. Nobody has to talk about it, because we all figured out some time ago that it can't be done. When you mislead people about why you go to war, when you tell them that the war will be short and the soldiers will be coming home in no time, when you tell them that it won't cost them much at all, and all of that turns out to be false, then you are utterly lacking in the credibility necessary to ask them to sacrifice more to win a war they only agreed to under very limited conditions in the first place.

Now I suppose it's possible that Lowry and Kristol already know all this, but they propose sending more troops anyway because they are making a sincere effort to convince people that this is the only action we can really take. Unfortunately, they make no concession to how difficult this will be, or where exactly these troops are supposed to come from. They make a long argument about why and how more troops will help, but nobody really disagrees with that. But their solution..."Send more troops Mr. President!" is lacking in the necessary details for it to be taken seriously.

Perhaps when Lowry and Kristol publish their next op-ed they can admit to the litany of mistakes made in Iraq, while arguing that we must stay committed despite those mistakes. Perhaps in their next op-ed, they will tells us exactly how we're supposed to do to come up with 10,000 or 20,000 or 100,000 more troops. Perhaps in their next op-ed, they will tell us that a revitalization of the draft will be worth it.

But I doubt it.

Update: Glenn Greenwald has about the same opinion of this bold new plan for Iraq, only he addresses with the level of scorn it deserves.


Nat-Wu said...

I don't usually respect those guys, and their column certainly isn't convincing me to now. It's not like we don't know the problem is that we need more troops! Anyone who has watched the war since the beginning knew that troop strength was going to be a problem. The only people who didn't were the neocons and the soldiers who don't think about what-ifs. We fought the war the way Rumsfeld wanted to fight it; you can see where it's gotten us. And now to fix the problem, we need another 100,000 men or more. Never mind where those men would actually come from (hell, we could solve two problems at once by drafting only illegal immigrant males), the question is really this; where would the funding come from? Do we have the money for that kind of occupation now? No! Not when we're operating in debt and borrowing money just to pay interest on the debt!

Face it, we have what we have and we're not going to get a second chance. We blew the only one we got, and I think it's fair to place the blame squarely on the Bush administration for that.

copy editor said...

Associated Press
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Sen. Lindsey Graham said the United States has "screwed up" in Iraq but that the fundamental idea of the war was still correct.

"I know Iraq is a mess and we have screwed up seven ways from Sunday," the South Carolina Republican told about 300 people at the College of Charleston on Sunday, the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We underestimated how hard it would be. But the fundamental idea behind Iraq is still correct," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"If we back out of this fight ... your children and grandchildren will never know peace," Graham warned.

He told the audience, "I come here with more questions than answers" and wondered "how do you deal with people who have no place on the planet for you?"

Graham said pulling out of Iraq now would mean more bloodshed across the region.

He added the most critical question is whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - who calls the Holocaust a hoax - means it when he says he would use nuclear missiles against Israel.

"The central issue of our time is the answer to that question," Graham said. "As we go into the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks ... I believe this is the 1930s and '40s all over again."

Nat-Wu said...

Does he address the issue of what that "idea behind Iraq" even was? Was it that Iraq was a breeding ground for terrorists and Saddam was supplying WMDs to them? Since he appears to be conflating Iraq with Iran, that must be the case. Of course, never mind that neither of those assertions was true. And never mind that if we hadn't invaded Iraq, we might be able to contain Iran like we'd been doing for 20 years.

Pulling out of Iraq will bring more bloodshed, absolutely. But so will staying. We can't avoid it. The best thing we can hope to do is minimize it. And we may not even be able to do that.

Graham is missing the point, or misleading the audience, but either way, such rhetoric has outlived its time.

adam said...

The Republican line going into '08 will be that Bush screwed up Iraq, but the idea behind it was "right."

Xanthippas said...

Seriously...is there a tele-conferance that they do where the sit around and Rove gives everyone instructions on what they should not say?

The "idea behind" Iraq was not right. It was only the beginning in a long list of stupidities, and it was the idea behind the invasion that produced the incompetant occupation and reconstruction that has followed, because if the Bush administration had been honest with themselves and with us about what it would take and how great of a threat Iraq was, none of these mistakes would have happened because we wouldn't have invaded.

copy editor said...

I think the "idea" was nonsense too.

But, there's going to be hell to pay in the entire Middle East. I focus more on the children and grandchildren fighting this wat. I think that is accurate.