Thursday, February 22, 2007

Brits pulling out of Iraq

So the recent news is that some British soldiers are being pulled out of Iraq. According to Tony Blair and President Bush this is a good thing, a sign of success in the region they were stationed.

According to certain politicians and pundits, however, this is actually bad for the President. They make hay of the irony of the British troops pulling out at the same time as Bush wants to send more American soldiers.

So which is it? Is it a positive thing that should make Bush look good or is it a negative thing that should make Bush look bad? I'll bet your answer to that question would be very easy to predict by anyone who knows you well, which leads me to make a couple of points.

First, why is everything viewed through the lens of politics? Why is it that when dealing with the facts of the British pulling out of Iraq the single most important thing on everyone's mind is how it reflects on Bush and his policies? Can't we just call a spade a spade sometimes?

Second, doesn't it trouble you that your answer to the question I posed would be so easy to predict? What does that tell you about yourself and the countless others (including me more often than I'd like) who don't seem to have the capability for original thought.

Finally, doesn't it bother you that we have two primary groups of pundits, politicians and people who have squared off against each other over the Iraq situation. The pro-war side is adamant about their position. To them there must be success in Iraq because that will prove that they were right. The anti-war side is equally adamant about their position. To them there must be failure in Iraq because that will prove that they were right. The one side can't afford to have us lose in Iraq and the other side can't afford to have us win. And what is the primary motivation behind both sides? You guessed it: politics. The winners (of the political game, not the war in Iraq) get all kinds of political points and the losers (of the political game, not the war in Iraq) get to hang their heads in shame. Long term issues like national security, what it means to be a good citizen of the world and, gasp, what's best for Iraq and other places like it don't seem to really matter much.

For an example of what we should be doing, by which I mean thoughtful, reasoned and civil debate, head over and check out a debate between Frank Gaffney and Tony Campolo on the campus of Eastern University. Just scroll down till you find the links from February 19 2007.

1 comment:

Rick Duck said...

Did you guess what my response is? Am I that predictable? Maybe, I am. But my answer is this: "I don't know."

Honestly, I don't know if the withdrawal is a good sign or a bad sign of how Iraq is going. A guy-level response tells me that it's bad for Bush and his policies. Then I read the spin from each side and maybe it was a good thing? Now I can't tell what is spin and what is insightful analysis.

So, I can see both sides of this. And it leaves me befuddled. I hate to default to this position, but...

Only time will tell. We may not know for 10 years or more.

-begin rant

That being said, I have to pick a side. As you probably already know, I am in favor of a strong, continued presence in Iraq in a real attempt to bring enough stability to the area that rapid reconstruction can take place and political solutions can have a chance to take hold. No political solution will keep Iraq from spiraling into outright civil war unless you can establish enough security for people to function day-to-day. Give them an option for their lives outside of suicide bombing, death squads or hiding in their houses under beds.

Absent that kind of security, Iraq will plunge into violent chaos that will spread through the entire region as neighboring states fight through proxies in Iraq. It WILL be the result of failure, I am convinced of it. Why should we care outside of plain old compassionate humanitarianism? Unfortunately, the answer is self-evident. We're addicted to their oil and don't want it to fall under the control of terrorist regimes. Otherwise, I'm afraid we really wouldn't care. Shame on us.

Establishing that security and reigning in the chaos that threatens to engulf Baghdad will probably take more troops and more time... if it even works at all. But, if we're going to do it, let's stop with the half-measures and stop making our troops beg for equipment, men and material. Stop making them feel ashamed for being there. Stop making them wonder if the American people and the American government will give them this chance to win. Focus like a laser on what shows evidence of really working, but be flexible when a strategy has not been effective.

Few things will damage this country's security, morale, global position, global relationships and image than a humiliating defeat in Iraq that leads to the scenario I've outlined. That goes our military, our civilians and our body politic.

-end rant.