It Is Hard And Complex
The "real" issues at hand in the Iraq conundrum.
By haystack Posted in Anti-War crowd | Defeat | Iraq | Surrender | the long war | War — Comments (26) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
General Petraeus testified before the Senate yesterday. Ambassador Crocker testified as well. The major headlines seemed more interested in the Presidential nominees and how they, in turn, handled their couple of minutes before the cameras questioning these two men about the status of things in Iraq. Much excitement swirled among the major media outlets, opining about how "Commander in Chiefish" they might have performed. Little was offered on the "specifics" of the news that the General and Ambassador's testimony brought us about the single most divisive issue in modern American history...well, since Viet Nam at least.
I watched it all on CSPAN 2, but since I don't get CSPAN 3 I missed the Foreign Relations circus in the afternoon. I was lucky though because Obama's network - CNN - promised all afternoon they would interrupt ANYONE that might be discussing the day's news when Obama got HIS turn to demagogue. They did, he did, and I remain unimpressed.
This is about Iraq. It's about Afghanistan. It's about the Middle East. It's about terrorism and the long war. It's about Sunni and Shia and Wahabi. It's about Christians and Jews and Muslims. It's about oil. It's about our middle and long-term security interests. It's about our grandchildren and the grandchildren of Arabs and Persians and Israelis. It's about everyone else's grandchildren as well. It's about things that are hard and complicated. Increasingly, however, it's becoming MORE about making it go away by turning our backs on these issues hoping they'll get better on their own (some even believing they will ONLY get better by turning our backs on them); hard and complicated don't go very well in modern America anymore.
It should NOT be about who the next President is. Clearly, however, I am in the minority in this regard.
America still stands at the very same crossroad it has been made to suffer for a very tiresomely long time now: do we stay or do we go?
This is going to be a long one, so if you leave now, leave with something my good friend Jeff Emanuel said...WAY back in October of 2007:
While a long-term view of Iraq, and its future issues, must be considered (with far more care than the nation’s future was thought through at the time of the initial invasion), those tasked with making tactical, strategic, and policy-level decisions on Iraq must not lose sight of the now in favor of analyzing every possible future issue. The decision-making process must not fall victim to the paralysis that can be brought on by over-analysis of future possibilities, lest America’s current effort be inadvertently and fatally undermined.
It's stunning what you might learn should you JOIN the men and women doing the heavy lifting as opposed to jumping in for a quick photo-op and running home for another dull day on Capitol Hill.
More below the fold...
The news brought to us from Petraeus and Crocker held a recurring theme: Iraq is hard and it is complicated. It's better, but it could get worse again. Progress in areas of security and political reconciliation has been made; it's fragile and it is reversible, but as Crocker put it "almost everything about Iraq is difficult," but "hard does not mean hopeless, and the political and economic process of the past few months is significant." Petraeus stated that there is "no turning of a corner, no light at the end of the tunnel" adding that "the champagne bottle has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator."
This is important stuff, folks, and requires a little more thought than the 5 second sound bites we're getting from the POTUS wannabes more concerned with votes than with the correct way forward with America's future.
It is fair to say, in hindsight, Iraq should not have been entered into. I suggest as much, NOT because it was the right thing or the wrong thing strategically, but because we couldn't have known the extent to which it would be politicized and demagogued and used as a riot baton over the heads of the American people. It is also fair to say, given what we knew at the time - what we believed to be true about weapons of mass destruction, rape rooms, torture, the human indecency in nearly everything Saddam had done to his country and his people - made "liberating Iraq" seem the right thing to do.
So, too, is it fair to say that many things were handled poorly. State and Defense have bungled many things with long-lasting repercussions for the very people we want(ed) so badly to help. Reconstruction has been good in places and bad in others. Security has improved in places and stayed bad or worsened in others. Some Iraqis like us and some hate us. Neighbors from Syria to Iran to Lebanon...who knows-maybe even Palestine and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia for all any of us know...have gone to great lengths to fight for American failure in Iraq. Each, in turn, has very specific and unique reasons for wanting a bad outcome for the West in Iraq, and given we "invaded" an Arab neighbor, perhaps they are justified...HOWEVER much worse they might be making things for themselves in the years ahead.
We can all agree that Iraq has torn not only the Middle East into little pieces, but it has torn America into little pieces as well. That is surely not what the planners intended-reasonable men and women (re-emphasizing "reasonable") can agree to that. But the reality remains: we are in Iraq and there is much to be done. What remains to be decided is who, exactly, is going to see to it that these things are accomplished?
a "diplomatic surge" including talks with US foe Iran, to help stabilize the situation in Iraq.
and called "for more pressure on the Iraqi government to embrace political reconciliation and a regional "diplomatic surge that includes Iran." Adding that "[w]e should be talking to them as well."
Obama's ideas with respect to Iran sound nice on paper, but ignoring Iran's stated intentions with Israel, their presumed "hostile" intentions with nuclear weapons, and their willingness to apply pressure where they know it hurts us most, any negotiations with Iran can be considered suspect on their face and the results of such negotiations can not be believed beyond arm's length. A lengthy history exists regarding Iran's refusal to comply with the International community...hedging their bets on America's defeat in Iraq only further supports them lying to our faces for their presumed longer-term gains. But, in his youthful statesmanship and ideas on matters of Foreign Affairs (read naivete), Obama continues:
"I do not believe we are going to be able to stabilize the situation without that" said Obama, adding that a plan for US troop withdrawals was needed to force Iraqi factions to work together.
"I think that increased pressure in a measured way, in my mind, and this is where we disagree, includes a timetable for withdrawal. Nobody is asking for a precipitous withdrawal."
Negotiating with a known state sponsor of terrorism - a trainer and supplier and financier of militias and terrorists - by offering them a time-certain for American presence to be removed from the Iraq theater doesn't appear to be the best first bargaining chip for squelching Iran's apparent desire to "run the show" in the region and fill the vacuum we would leave behind after what Obama promises would NOT be a precipitous withdrawal. I'm not certain Mr. Obama sees the long-term implications of handing the region over to Iran...in time for them to nuke Israel or anyone else they think stands in their way of re-establishing the Caliphate before we or any of our allies can actually do anything about it.
POTUS wannabe Hillary Clinton, with disdain in her heart has a slightly different approach with the same end-game in mind. While she, too, suggests leaving Iraq is the best way to FORCE Iraqis to finish the hard work left to be done, she needs to associate everything with a "failed administration" as the driving force to justify the strategy:
For the past five years, we have continually heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we are about to turn the corner. Each time, Iraqi leaders fail to deliver," she said, saying it was time to start an "orderly" US withdrawal from Iraq.
She was also quoted (again) with this recurring campaign message:
"It might well be irresponsible to continue the policy that has not produced the results that have been promised time and time again at such tremendous cost. The administration and its supporters often talk about the cost of leaving Iraq, yet ignore the greater cost of continuing the same failed policy."
Failed policy, or Obama's "massive strategic blunder" rhetoric resonates with pols and pundits, but they aren't specific alternative strategies for Iraqis to attach themselves to as they hope to live to see the next day or week...or grandchild.
Obama gets the win for being motivated by positive factors. His heart's in the right place. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand is driven by wanting to be President herself because she's so MAD at the one we have in office just now. While Clinton goes down swinging with "it's all Bush's fault-let's punish him by wiping clean the past 5 years of history with a black mark on his (President Bush's) back," there's no there there in what she thinks makes the most sense for the future of Iraq.
Neither of them have this right in my opinion, but they have votes to worry about. Sadly, this is no way for a true "Statesman" to behave.
Like Obama's "Hope and Change" theme, Hillary's "Solutions" initiatives fall short on all accounts for providing us with the answer to the fundamental question; what do we do NOW?
As gideon1789 tries to highlight (in paraphrasing a summation of the anti-war position), leaving a place before the work is finished believing it will accelerate progress toward completion just falls short of logical thought:
"Far from hurting Iraq, a retreat would do the most to help Iraq. The Iraqis are free riding on American forces. They won't provide for their own security until we leave. We have to leave to force them to stand up for themselves."
...[I]t was the new strategy and the "surge" which created the security that allowed Iraqis to start standing up for themselves. They forged new alliances to resist the extremists. They enlisted by the tens of thousands in the Iraqi Army. They even began solving large political problems (de-Baathification, budget, municipal elections, etc.).
But we are still early in that process. It has only been about 15 months since we began implementing the new strategy, and only about 10 months since we fully implemented it. It takes a lot more time to form a capable new army, to work through all the big political issues, to lay the groundwork for a free market economy.
He's got it right, in reminding us that this takes time. Removing the primary security force from a theater of operations where security is still tenuous at best will KILL innocent civilians, and will kill Military and support personnel as well. Displacing our forces with Iraqi forces IS the plan, and HAS worked with some modicum of success in certain areas. But not in ALL areas.
Political progress is as much reliant on security as it is on those doing the politicking. Vilifying Maliki is easy business, but critique from a governing body EQUALLY incapable of making the "tough choices" or giving in to the "necessary compromises" is disingenuous, and laughable on its face. This Congress enjoys its approval rating for a very good reason, and holding Iraq (a couple years old) to a higher standard than it sets for itself (a couple hundred years old) is beyond the pale.
The way forward in Iraq (over the long-term) does include our significantly reduced armed presence. The conditions, however, for those reductions must be conditions-based, not time-based as the two Democrat contenders would have us believe.
The suggested "Diplomatic surge" is very wise (catchy too, if you're running for President on zero experience), but doesn't include the right players. As with the DPRK, a combination of sanctions and isolation and a multi-lateral team of countries-all of Iraq AND Iran's neighbors- needs to be brought to bear on Iran and her fellow "opportunists." Negotiating from a vantage point of being apologetic for doing what you believe to be the "right thing" is no way to assert your strength of position to "strongly encourage" bad guys to become good guys.
Along the way, Iraq will still need sustained security and she still needs her own people to continue the painfully slow task of assuming first contact responsibility. Until the Government and their security forces CAN do this, we're going to have to continue to do it for them. No one else CAN, and no one else will. However much we would like our men and women home, Iraq is not ready for them to leave. Where our political heroes here at home can help the most is where they refuse to help at all; agreeing amongst themselves to demand victory, insisting on success, providing the physical and financial resources necessary, and mustering the necessary political will to pressure the countries surrounding Iraq to get on board with helping her to succeed.
These, sadly, are the very things Congress continues to refuse to do. It's too hard, and it's too complicated you see. Instead, they remain focused on insisting we remove Iraq from the US Government teat..because there are a great many Americans (read potential voters) that they want to put ON that teat in the name of accruing power for its own sake. That is no way to run a country, and it is certainly no way to fight a war.
In the end, Jeff is still right 6 months hence:
The decision-making process must not fall victim to the paralysis that can be brought on by over-analysis of future possibilities, lest America’s current effort be inadvertently and fatally undermined.
It has fallen victim to paralysis and this continues to fatally undermine Iraq and everyone's efforts there.