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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003


War and Occupation

posted by Brian Ulrich at Tuesday, December 09, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
First off, a disclaimer: I supported the Iraq war, and think Dean's assertion that we could have contained Iraq indefinitely is wrong. (To find out part of how I drifted into the Dean camp anyway, click here.) So it won't surprise you if I disagree with Kucinich and Sharpton that we need to cut and run now, even though I do see the occupation as partly a new phase of the war. And I also don't see Dean's views on the matter as in any way inconsistent.

Foreign policy is not like domestic policy. Foreign affairs are in a state of continual evolution. A significant change occurred in Iraq during the war: Saddam Hussein was deposed. This led to the unleashing of a wide variety of political, social, and cultural forces to the point where the question of where you originally stood on the war is now moot. For one thing, if you leave before Iraq is stable, you run a grave risk of leaving behind a failed state and a haven for terrorists. Dean has said in previous debates he believes al-Qaeda are there now when they weren't before - this does not fit into a neat slogan like "UN in, US out," but it does show a grasp of how these things work. Even aside from that, a civil war in a nation like Iraq would likely draw in most of its neighbors as well. (By the way, I disagree with the "Yugoslavia theory" - my thinking is identical to what Juan Cole says here.) To be honest, I would also argue that under Bush's leadership, the U.S. has incurred a moral responsibility to make a serious effort to build up the country we invaded after propping up its dictator for years.

One thing that stood out about Dean's comments was when he mentioned the mullah who was supporting democracy. To be precise, he was referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and his role in the developing political process. Other candidates are talking about specific plans that they hope will still be relevant 13 months from now; Dean is studying the situation, which is from my perspective more important. You simply don't know for sure what you will do in office until you see the situation you're left with, get access to all the classified intelligence, and find out how our allies will respond to you as the President based on how the situation has evolved. The official plan he has for Iraq is respectable and gives me an idea what principles he will follow. He undrstands the importance of seeking out top people to help him craft and implement plans once he takes office. That combined with the extent to which he is taking this issue seriously and learning about it are two key qualities which will make him an excellent President.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.