Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Disaster by Any Other Name ...

Dumbya says that pulling out of Iraq now would be "a disaster."

Presumably, he means a disaster other than the disaster of staying in Iraq.

The Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher and Glenn Kessler report that the president, in a rare nod to a big fancy word, acknowledged yesterday that the Iraq War is "straining the psyche" of Americans:

"Resolute and at times exasperated during a 56-minute news conference, Bush cast the war in Iraq as part of a broader struggle against Islamic extremism that holds serious implications for the security of the United States. Bush's defense of his Iraq policy touched on familiar themes, but his passionate and lengthy plea to keep fighting was striking in light of the plummeting support for the war among the public and -- more worrisome for the White House -- among Republicans.

"Many Democrats, and some Republicans, have called for a fixed timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Also, an increasing number of conservative commentators who once agitated for the invasion are now critical of Bush's handling of the war ...


"Turning back to Iraq, Bush was adamant in arguing that the conflict is crucial to the broader battle against terrorism. 'If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself,' he said."

First, let's get the obvious sophomoric commentary out of the way. Despite my belief that Iraq has been a costly and grievous mistake, I am not sure that I support pulling out. Pulling out is hardly foolproof. And I've got the bundle of joy to prove it.

But neither is there necessarily shame in withdrawal, or "cut and run," as the Rovian talking points put it. I remember many years ago receiving this sage advice about turning my back on a relationship that wasn't working out (it helped that the woman was a cheating ho, but that's immaterial at the moment):

"It's important to know when to leave an impossible relationship."

Defense hawks love to talk about how the specter of Vietnam has dampened Americans' zeal for a lengthy war, and I suppose there is some truth in that observation. Whether a presumptive opposition to war is necessarily a bad thing is something I will leave for greater minds to ponder. But I would add that the legacy of Vietnam cuts both ways; the miserable experience of that war also fuels the view of many that "never again." In this case, "never again" means "never again will we cut and run; never again will we do a job half-assed; never again will we fight a war without resolving to win it."

That can be counterproductive and dangerous. Make no mistake; cut-and-run is an option. It might not be the ideal option, but it is an exit strategy, certainly as much a strategy as fighting until there's one man left standing.

Why am I reminded of the black knight scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

Cut-and-run might not be a great option, but it just might be the best one we've got.


At 4:58 PM, Blogger Dr. Pants said...

I've definitely struggled with the idea of leaving Iraq too soon, no matter how opposed I was to the going in in the first place.

I keep hearing about how many Iraqis are presumed dead and how those numbers are so much crazier than the numbers of our own troops who have been killed.

What I'm saying is, it's real and it's really happening. And I wonder how many people on both sides of the debate have thought about the individual people who have died or lost loved ones because of this war.

Could things be worse if we pull out? I'm afraid they could. But it doesn't seem like staying is doing a whole hell of a lot of good.

Truth is, I don't feel smart enough to make a decision on this one. Sadly, I don't think our decision-makers are smart enough, either.

At 7:08 AM, Blogger LiteraryTech said...

Ouch. I am so totally with Dr. Pants on this question of the lack of smarts in our decision-makers.

It seems to me that we need to get out, relatively quickly, or really commit to staying.

This is a war that Bush didn't want us to really notice. There was no formal declaration of war (not that this is unusual as Congress has not agreed on such a subject since WWII). The dead and wounded were quietly hushed for the first several years. People were sued and harrassed for having the tererity to photograph the valiant dead returning home. There has never been a commitment to this war. It seems to me that we don't live up to the standard of the Black Knight. It is not that we are not staying in it shouting that we aren't dead yet, it is that we aren't really committed to staying in it and are only shouting because we aren't smart enough to get out.

If we are really committed to this war, we should take the advice of my beloved. Fire up the draft, put the government on austerity rations, get 500,000 troops and go kick some ass.

What? No stomach for the draft? Then perhaps this war is not something we feel strongly enough about to be fighting. War is a last resort, not a weekend diversion. Shooting people is not something you undertake from 9-5.

Get committed, or get out.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger RedDirt said...

Wow, I cannot believe I am agreeing with Literary Tech. Did someone dope my Diet Dr. Pepper? The farmer and the cowhand can get along!

I am one of those who always thought this was going to be "long, hard slog" for our nation before we invaded. But I also voted for Clinton in 1996 and supported him in 1998 when he was preparing to invade even then.

I thought that the dithering of the 12 years leading up to the '03 invasion had made the situation infinitely worse, and that further delays would have only prolonged an inevitable confrontation.

I totally agree, Literary Tech, that either we as a nation commit and put more troops on the ground RIGHT NOW (as we should have done in the first place, and as Shinseki and others tried to warn us) or we say as a nation that we don't have the stomach for it and get out.

And if Bush cannot or will not do these things, then he is not the leader our nation needs right now. I've already had it with his increasingly inarticulate platitutdes, and I do not think he is telling the nation the hard truths about what we face.

If Americans don't want to see this through, then we shouldn't indulge in a lot of paper tiger flag-waving and bombastic country-song singing and flowery rhetoric.

And the half-ass strategy we have now is only encouraging terrible bloodshed, terrible suffering on the part of the Iraqi people and more loss of American life. John McCain put it succinctly when he called our strategy a game of "whack-a-mole."

This nation had better decide if it is going to get serious about the challenges we face in this new century and the sacrifices that will be required -- including the necessity energy independence from the Middle East -- or we absolutely deserve to pass into history.

When I heard about the photographer who took the famous Iwo picture passing away the other day, I thought about my grandfather watching his friends die on Iwo Jima and how he'd volunteered for the Marines after living a life of Dust Bowl deprivation. Then I saw a Hummer drive by me on the highway, and I felt real nausea in the pit of my stomach.

There are a lot of either/or choices we face right now, and one of them is whether we as a nation are going to turn away from the decadent consumerism and lassitude that dominates our country right now.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger LiteraryTech said...

Oh my... I'm feeling faint.

Deep breath.


So, Red Dirt and I are agreeing about something. And he's responding to my points. Wow.

Okay, but one point on which I would push back a bit is the presumption that it is simple lack of moral courage or strength of character that is the problem with American resolve. While I am certainly not one to suggest that there is not reason to be concerned on this front, I would suggest that it is possible that the populace lacks stomach for this war because there is something wrong with it from the beginning.

Worth considering.

PS, thanks for posting on my blog, Red Dirt. Come often. :-)

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is simple - Iraq under Hussein was a monumental danger. With his motives and oil money, we'd have a mentally deranged man in control of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction within a very few years. He
had already demonstrated no constraints when he nerved gassed the Kurds years before. He also had said that his biggest
mistake was invading Kuwait before he had a nucleay bomb. Now he's gone, and that's a very big plus for Bush. I can't think of another bnational politician who would have shown the
guts he did in going after the SOB,
including his father. Now that he's gone, there is the danger that other
madmen like those now plaguing the country might take control. That's not
something that can be allowed to happen. It isn't any more complicated than that. Those that want to leave have no strategy nor any plausible
answers as to how Iraq is to be domesticated. They are trying to sell my future down the tubes because they
don't feel comfortable watching daily
combat. Look at it this way - we are wiping out a goodly number of innocent
victims in this country every day and
obtain no benefit whatsoever. If you can stand our citizens being gunned down day after day (one per day in D.C.), what's the complaint about soldiers taking casulaties and actually protecting our country. We don't maintain a million men in the army so they can sit in barracks in Fort Knox KY for twenty years waiting to claim a pension. Why do these critical morons think we have a military, if not to protect this country?


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