George W. Bush gets ready to hightail it out of Iraq or
at least tries to convince the American people that's what
he's doing with his "Iraqification" policy the
neocons are up in arms and poor little
Billy Kristol is in a veritable
tizzy. In a
piece co-authored with Robert Kagan in the Weekly Standard,
he wails that the front page of the November 7 Washington
Post "says it all:
"The first headline, in large type: 'Bush
Urges Commitment to Transform Mideast.' Below,
in slightly smaller type: 'Pentagon
to Shrink Iraq Force.' And below that: 'Iraqi
Security Crews Getting Less Training.' It's a jarring
juxtaposition. The president eloquently makes the case for
a necessarily and admirably ambitious foreign policy. Yet
his own administration's deeds threaten the achievement of
his goals. "
it does seem that way, now doesn't it? And thank God for that.
No more wars in '04 is how
Karl Rove would prefer it, but the neocons never let an election
get in the way of their favorite blood sport especially
if it's Arab blood being spilled.
the President is going and spoiling all their fun by frantically
trying to get out all the while talking
tough. Of course, Bill Kristol doesn't have to run for
reelection, so he can sit on the sidelines and criticize.
But one has to admit that he makes some very good points.
the idea that foreign troops were going to fill in for the
Americans was always an illusion. Now the Bushies are pursuing
an even more elusive pipedream: "Iraqification." But this
is merely a euphemism for withdrawal, albeit at a much slower
pace than Antiwar.com would prefer.
Kristol and Kagan correctly point out, there is no way to
vet the 100,000 or so Iraqis they are promising to put in
the field as police, militia, and border guards and one
mistake can be deadly. "A few weeks ago," they write,
car bomb was detonated next to an Iraqi police station. The
car in which the bomb was rigged was itself a police car.
How did a suicide bomber get hold of a police car? Probably,
someone recruited by the United States was playing a double
game. It takes only a couple of mistakes in background checks
to have a disaster, and that assumes you're really conducting
background checks. But such incidents will multiply as the
hastily assembled and inadequately vetted Iraqi forces take
the door hits us on our way out, the consequences may be more
than a few bruises.
Iraqification: let's start talking about a rapid withdrawal.
you read the Kristol-Kagan piece, what's odd is that they're
beginning to sound like the Democrats as they scold the administration
for not realizing what the conquest and occupation of a country
entailed. They attack the Bushies' "parsimony" after all,
what's a mere $87 billion? and note
that "Rumsfeld remains dogmatically committed to a smaller
force" in spite of the fact that we're "losing the peace."
only there was a peace to win. Kristol complains that the
Pentagon is dragging its feet in implementing the President's
war plans, and declares that the only acceptable exit strategy
is "victory." But what does victory look like in this context?
Saddam is overthrown. Those "weapons of mass destruction"
you know, the ones that never existed
are no longer a threat, even theoretically. So why not declare
victory, and bring the troops home?
Kristol and his fellow neocons, the war has barely begun.
They are openly
campaigning for extending
the war into Syria, Iran, and even Saudi Arabia, but is the President
prepared to do that? If so, we won't hear a word about it
until after the election, of that you can be sure.
the meantime, the Bushies want to be able to say they're implementing
an exit strategy, but then there's the somewhat embarrassing
deterioration of our strategic position in Iraq, proceeding
rapidly and just in time for the start of the presidential
campaign season. Because of the partisan factor, we're seeing
a very interesting turn in the debate over the war. The Democrats
are becoming more interventionist, and the Republicans are
at least implicitly talking about the necessity of a U.S.
withdrawal, reverting at least rhetorically to traditional
Dean, on the other hand, calls for an extended U.S. stay,
and told the Washington Post that we would have the
right to force
a Constitution down the Iraqis' throats, if necessary,
since "we have the final say." And that's the "antiwar" candidate!
is merely reiterating the mainstream Democratic party position.
Joe Biden has long criticized the administration for not
"leveling" with the American people and "admitting" that a
massive commitment in troops and treasure is inevitable. This
kind of critique was echoed, the other day, by Robert
Orr, in an
interview on the PBS News Hour. A former member
of the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration,
now at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, Orr served
on a Pentagon postwar assessment
team, and he sounds this Kristolian warning:
president today named 118,000 Iraqis in uniform. When I traveled
around Iraq over the summer, there were only a few thousand.
One has to question what kind of training these folks have
been through when, in fact, they've had, at most, one month
worth of training.
We need to be ready to stand at their
side for a while yet."
avers that the U.S. will have to be in Iraq for "a couple
of years." It's "premature to be talking about troop withdrawals,"
he says. Orr is clearly irritated by the idea that a single
soldier is coming home before the Iraqis have constructed
a Jeffersonian republic. "All of a sudden," he complains,
hearing about troop withdrawals and timetables for troop withdrawal
that seem to be driven more by a calendar here in the United
States rather than the reality on the ground in Iraq."
the other hand, Jim Lehrer's other guest, Bing West, an assistant
defense secretary in the Reagan administration, author of
March Up: Taking Baghdad With the 1st Marine Division,
takes the Republican "isolationist" position of getting out
a.s.a.p. Bing is hardly a
pacifist. He argues that we simply don't need all those
divisions there, patrolling "up and down the highway," where
ducks. This led to the following exchange:
LEHRER: "What about that, Mr. West? Mr. Orr said that a
couple times. This talk about troop withdrawal, get the troops
out in six months or start withdrawing, taking troops or the
U.S. troop strength down next year, et cetera, is sending
the wrong message to the Iraqi people?"
WEST: "Well, I think we have to ask what is the mission?
And the mission of our big battalions no longer is facing
big battalions. The mission is now down to dealing with a
small area in Iraq
us just to be driving up and down the highway or something
in presence patrols, that doesn't make too much of a difference
in that situation. And our troops don't speak Iraqi. They're
not in there every day speaking on the street the way the
Iraqi police are. So I think reasonably when Gen. Abizaid
and our other generals look at this and they say, 'We don't
need all these big battalions' that seems to make a
lot of sense. We don't...."
is the mission, anyway? To the neocons, it's "democracy"
throughout the Middle East, which means an extended stay.
Kristol is right: the "forward strategy" enunciated by the
President in his
recent speech before the National Endowment for Democracy
is in direct contradiction to the administration's actions
on the ground in Iraq. The real mission in Iraq is to build
a forward base to be used in a future Mideast war. "The president
wants to win," says Kristol, "and the Pentagon wants
to get out." Yes, it's those "cut and run" peaceniks over
at the Pentagon, and not the antiwar movement, that has the
War Party up in arms. Forget Noam Chomsky, and
Fisk the real object of the neocons' scorn these days
is Donald Rumsfeld,
who last week said:
got to get the security responsibility transferred to the
Iraqi people.... It's their country.... We're not going to
provide security in their country over a sustained period
was enough to cause conniptions over at War Party headquarters:
the Sunday talk shows at the beginning of last week, Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't exactly say that we were
going to run, but he certainly sounded as if he were eyeing
West, and the officer corps exemplified by those senior retired officers
out against this war before it started look at Iraq
from a purely military point of view, and with the goal in
mind of protecting their troops while carrying out a well-defined
and therefore limited mission. Beyond that, they
clearly see Baghdad as another
Beirut waiting to happen. Ronald Reagan got out of Lebanon,
and fast: will George W. Bush show the same wisdom? Or will
we have to learn that lesson all over again?
IN THE MARGIN
to the shortfall of troops, I have a solution. Now that even
the Turks who were eager to get their mits on northern Iraq
and deal with their Kurdish "problem" once and for all have
been dissuaded from showing
up at the party, and long
troop deployments are playing havoc with the lives of
our reservists, why don't we invite the Israelis to contribute
some of their troops to the occupation?
after all, are so much better at humiliating Arabs than
we are. Why should all that accumulated experience leveling
homes and businesses, and inflicting collective
punishment go to waste? As our loyal ally, they would
no doubt be more than glad to sacrifice their own sons and
daughters in this dirty little war.
all, we started it on their
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