Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes

Unlike the pResident, my opinion on America's involvement in Iraq is constantly evolving. As recently as last month, I publicly expressed what could be considered as the "optimistic liberal viewpoint" regarding the U.S. government's continued involvement in Iraq, to wit: While it was clear to me that the total faith and credit of every branch of the U.S. government was wrong from the outset vis Iraq, now that a "FUBAR" label has been stamped on the whole failed enterprise, it was ours to fix.

In a moment of repose earlier today, I firmed up a feeling which has been developing inside of me for weeks. Iraq and its government have become co-dependent on the American occupation of their country. My use of the term "co-dependent" doesn't mean they like us...just that they're playing us for the suckers that we are. And our government is letting us be played. And the band plays on.

So today, my attitude on America's failed venture in Iraq has officially changed. As I posted earlier this afternoon on Eschaton, we've ascertained there's no WMD in Iraq. We've ascertained that our soldiers have died for nothing of lasting import. We've ascertained that the vast majority of Iraqis apparently would rather be under the boot of tyranny anyway. (At least "the boot" stops the random mortar attacks.) It's come time to set a date, then get the fuck out. That's what I hope John Kerry does on his day of inauguration, in response to the quagmire he inherits from George Bush. It's become the only reasonable exit strategy - cut the losses.

Even though I vehemently opposed the "war", up until a month or so ago I was of the opinion that we had to stay until the mess was cleaned up. I now realize the mess will never be cleaned up. At least not by us. The United States will remain involved unless and until POTUS says, "enough, this tar baby's now yours, Governor Allawi", and we mount up to ride out of the 51st state.

By hanging in there, we're only delaying the inevitable bloodbath that, in the organic progression of what passes for order in the Mesopotamian world, is going to happen before a semblance of stability is restored. Americans have become unwilling investors in a failed enterprise. It's time to cash out, not throw more money (and lives) after bad.

Interestingly enough, after my post on Eschaton, someone responded to me with a link to an opinion piece from today's New York Times that validated my viewpoint:

This is no diplomatic parlor game. The threat of an American withdrawal would have to be made credible by physical preparations for a military evacuation, just as real nuclear weapons were needed for deterrence during the cold war. More fundamentally, it would have to be meant in earnest: the United States is only likely to obtain important concessions if it is truly willing to withdraw if they are denied. If Iraq's neighbors are too short-sighted or blinded by hatred to start cooperating in their own best interests, America would indeed have to withdraw.

That is a real constraint. Then again, the situation in Iraq is not improving, the United States will assuredly leave one day in any case, and it is usually wise to abandon failed ventures sooner rather than later.

Yes, withdrawal would be a blow to American credibility, but less so if it were deliberate and abrupt rather than a retreat under fire imposed by surging antiwar sentiments at home. (See Vietnam.)

So long as the United States is tied down in Iraq by over-ambitious policies of the past, it can only persist in wasteful futile aid projects and tragically futile combat. A strategy of disengagement would require risk-taking statecraft of a high order, and much competence at the negotiating table. But it would be based on the most fundamental of realities: for geographic reasons, many other countries have more to lose from an American debacle in Iraq than does the United States itself. The time has come to take advantage of that difference.
The military have been the pawns and the U.S. taxpayers the financiers of this failed enterprise.

I'm not much of a Kenny Rogers fan (at least not since First Edition days...), but he wrote a song...

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold up
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run...