Sunday, December 18, 2005


I'll be on the road the next couple weeks visiting family and friends in the Pacific Northwest so I won't be posting. Maybe I'll just ignore all the bullshit going on in the world. Best wishes to all for the holidays and the coming year.

Rethinking a Disastrous War

Some interesting trends in the news. Swopa at Needlenose comments on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s statement that the Democrats will not offer a unified position on Iraq. Pelosi says that Democrats are free to follow their conscience. Swopa correctly contrasts this non-policy with the BushChencey’s clear, bold and utterly bullshit meme that fighting in Iraq makes us safer, that democracy defuses mid-east terrorism and leaving Iraq opens us to greater danger in the future. Swopa wants Democrats to challenge this bogus framework.

So do I. As a Democrat, I want my party to offer a real alternative to Iraq; a real alternative that addresses this nation’s security interests and does not continue the policies that inflame world opinion against us. In opposition to BushCheney, I offer my own modest policy frame.

• “Fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here” only makes this nation safer if: a) we are fighting the right “them”, b) we don’t destroy our military in the process and c) our strategy and tactics are appropriate to the threat. The Iraq war meets none of these conditions. Democrats should clearly state what the real threats this nation faces and how they would use our military and other resources to protect us from these threats. I personally, do not believe that “global terrorism” is the great threat BushCheney claims. Sure, the 9-11 attacks were horrible in the event but the perpetrators have only a limited reach; their attacks are sporadic and casualty totals rarely approach triple digits, much less thousands. Clearly, Americans want to be protected as much as possible but this is not World War II or even the Cold War. Democrats need to argue for a proportionate, effective response for a dangerous but limited threat.

• Democracy only works if it is real. The political process established by the United States is democratic in form but limited in scope; it offers few real choices to voters and is highly vulnerable to manipulation. The one thing I believe the US has given to the Iraqi people is the political process and training in political skills, seeds that may someday bear fruit. But that someday is not going to make any difference in the near term. In the meantime the US is uniquely unqualified for nation-building in Iraq; we have limited knowledge of its culture and traditions, our capability in Iraq is military not civil, and our motives are widely suspect. The shining light of democracy will always be a beacon but many dangerous shoals remain to be navigated. During that time the risks remain. And the ultimate risk is that middle eastern voters will support anti-American candidates out of resentment against American interference.

• Changing our tactics is not “cut and run”. Changing tactics is the rational response to events on the ground, recognizing the original plans do not work in the changed environment. New tactics allow us to conserve our military resources by finding alternate ways to achieve ends. Democrats can clearly point out that the US does not need to fight in Iraq to protect itself against terror attacks. Democrats can point out that the most effective protection against small cells operating independently is cooperation among nations. American policy at this time actually works against this needed cooperation.

As Swopa says, the Democrats are losing the opportunity to wrest America from the dangers of BushCheney’s reckless policies by accepting the premise of those policies. An effective Democratic policy for Iraq would challenge that premise and offer America a real alternative.

And speaking of alternatives, Gareth Porter writes in Asia Times that the US will soon begin negotiating with Sunni insurgents in an effort to defuse their insurgency. I have long thought this to be the only policy that has a chance of succeeding in Iraq and the only one that offers an opportunity to rid Iraq of the foreign fighters that BushCheney claim are the major threat in that country. So I am pleased to see that BushCheney is finally coming around to talking to the insurgents. Mind you, this is no panacea. The Sunni terms are not at all likely to please BushCheney. Remember, the US began negotiations with North Vietnam in 1968; the war continued for seven more years.