Friday, June 03, 2005

Solving the problem with the problem of Iraq

With reference to the previous post, I recommend this piece by David Corn about the "Withdraw Now" movement.

One of the arguments made in favor of withdrawl is that the presence of our troops is inspiring the insurgents therefore removing them will remove the inspiration and will thus reduce the violence. David rightly points out that there is little historical evidence to back up this claim. I would go further by saying that it is wishful thinking that is akin to the faith-based foreign policy promoted by the neo-cons: the belief that increasing the attacks on the insurgents will magically make them stop.

But here's the thing: I happen to agree with the withdrawlist point that the presence of the U.S. troops is an irritant that stimulates the insurgency. I've believed, since Abu Ghraib, that America is presently part of the problem more than it is part of the solution. I just don't see that a simple withdrawal will solve the problem. Our forces are an arrow stuck in the side of Iraq. Iraq will never get better as long as it is there, but if we just pull it out we will cause even more damage.

This particular intellectual argument for withdrawal doesn't hold up.

However, there is a more emotionally satisfying argument for withdrawal: it may not solve Iraq's problem, but it will solve our problem. Namely, no more Americans will have to die for Bush's folly. It is this argument that, barring any other solution, will eventually win out. It is the argument that won in Vietnam as the American people just got tired of the carnage. The political will to "stay the course" collapsed soon afterward. We withdrew and the wounds left were particularly bloody (many of them are still bleeding today).

We've already repeated the first mistake of Vietnam by over-estimating our ability to solve the internal political struggles of another nation. Will we compound this by repeating the last mistake of Vietnam by washing our hands of the problem we helped create?

I don't know the solution. I want the Democrats to be the authors of the solution. But I know we never will as long as we continue to fight amongst ourselves about who was right and who was wrong about Iraq. Before Democrats can solve the problem of Iraq we have to solve the Democrat's problem with the problem of Iraq.


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