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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I am all for 100 years in Iraq

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, April 09, 2008 permalink View blog reactions
... if we can indeed have an occupation in which no American troops are "injured or harmed or wounded or killed".

RedState is rather freaked out about the McCain/100 years meme, claiming that Obama, the media, the Democrats, the Easter Bunny, etc are all conspiring together and this misrepresentation of John McCain is proof of a "national security distortion field" around Obama et al. They insist that the full quote from McCain somehow provides exculpatory context:

"We've been in Japan for 60 years, we've been in South Korea for 50 years, that'd be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and recruiting and equipping people."

(extra-special emphasis theirs, not mine.)

However, the critique against McCain is not that he wants 100 years of warfare. It is that he is describing a point B. But we are at point A, and there is no apparent progress on the present course towards point B.

Invoking the quote above actually hurts RedState's defense of McCain because it paints him as a kind of dewey-eyed dreamer about some mythical Iraq that will someday exist. Sure, let's all sing kumbaya for 100 years around the Iraqi campfire of love. But we aren't there yet. When does that 100 years begin?

If indeed there is a strategy for getting to the McCain Century, then yesterday's testimony was the Administration's opportunity to explain it. Petraeus and Crocker failed on this task.

Phil Carter (who most deservedly, has moved his blog to the Washington Post) summarizes the testimony, concluding:

So what is our strategy in Iraq? And for that matter, what is "victory?" How does a "victory" in Iraq relate to America's larger national security interests? Petraeus and Crocker effectively punted on these grand questions, as they did last September, offering only that we needed to persevere and succeed to avoid vague Somalia-like predictions of what might happen if we don't.

That's not a good enough answer for me. I don't think that Petraeus and Crocker justified our enormous investment of blood and treasure with their testimony yesterday.

But I also think that responsibility is above their paygrade. The real answers to these grand questions must come from the White House and Pentagon -- and they must be argued convincingly enough to earn the support of the American people and their elected representatives.

Yesterday's testimony highlighted our strategic drift, and how Sisyphean our efforts in Iraq have been for the past five years. We owe something more to our men and women serving in Iraq, and to the Iraqis.

Also, Democracy Arsenal provides this executive summary of the first day's hearings, culled from their liveblogging:

1. Petraeus and Crocker refuse to tell us what our long term strategy is in Iraq, holding to the weak excuse that they can't make predictions into the future. But they have no problem making scary predictions into the future about what will happen if we withdraw. Contradiction? We think so.

2. Senator Biden made Crocker admit that the threat from Al Qaeda central along the Afghan-Pakistan border is a higher priority than Al Qaeada in Iraq.

3. John McCain still seems to be confusing his Shi’a and his Sunnis. He seems to have this recurring problem and if he becomes President and does this in some international forum it will be REALLY REALLY bad.

4. Iran is the new Al Qaeda. A large portion of the questioning from Martinez, Lieberman, Graham was based on trying blame Iran from what happened in Basra. But as Senator Jack Reed pointed out the Iranians are actually supporting all of the various Shi’a groups in Iraq, including those in league with the central government.

5. Petraeus and Crocker repeatedly quoted Osama Bin Laden and his deputies that Iraq was the central fron in the war on terror. But as Senators Bayh and Feingold pointed out we shouldn't take our marching orders from Al Qaeda, as their strategy is to bleed and bankrupt the United States in Iraq.

6. Ryan Crocker continues to present a rosy picture of what happened in Basra last week, saying that it has strengthened Maliki’s hand. But news on the ground today seems to undermine this claim with Sadr actually picking up support from various religious leaders.

7. When asked by Senator John Warner whether Iraq was making us safer Petraeus kept hedging and stated that it would ultimately be up to history. Not very comforting. And for those who argue that it’s not his job to answer that question. The President has made it his job, but ignoring the advice of other more senior military leaders and going straight to Petraeus.

8. Crocker claims that there has been a "diplomatic surge" by the United States. But as Chuck Hagel pointed out these claims are "thin." A real diplomatic surge would entail Rice, Gates, or a special envoy - people from the highest levels of the government - reaching out to Iraq's neighbors and being able to talk not just about Iraq but all regional issues.

9. Petraeus and Crocker can't tell us if political reconciliation, the whole point of the surge, is actually happening.

So, in a nutshell, McCain is arguing on blind faith that we need to stay the course in Iraq even though that course has no larger strategic benefit to our self-interest. Meanwhile, Obama has a detailed plan for increasing the size of the military and refocusing our efforts on the Afghan-Pakistan border, where bin Laden remains at large, plotting the next 9-11. Which candidate has the NatSec distortion field, exactly?

(disclaimer - I do not support total withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and neither do Obama or Clinton).

UPDATE: Videos of Senators Obama and Clinton questioning Petraeus.

Dean Nation is now Nation-Building: Purple politics, muscular liberalism, principled pragmatism

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"It is that he is describing a point B. But we are at point A, and there is no apparent progress on the present course towards point B."

That's just not true. Violence is trendingg way down from last year, and the Iraqi Army is increasingly taking over the dangerous stuff.

In a few years, the Iraqis should be able to do it all themselves.

Of course, with AQ on the ropes and Sadr talking about disbanding his militia, there may not be anyone to fight by then anyway.


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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.