Saturday, July 28, 2007

Do we tell the Iraqs to take a hike, or do we give them more walking shoes?

In an effort to disguise this blog as a serious blog, I will talk about Iraq. That's the mark of a serious blog, you know. Talking about Iraq.

There are two competing views that are of interest:

  • It is un-Christian for us to put American soldiers in harm's way in a war that is unwinnable.

  • It is un-Christian for us to abandon the Iraqis to total chaos. Better that we stay there to at least mitigate the problem.

The competing views, as well as some others, are illustrated in this qando post. McQ writes:

These questions posed to John Edwards typify why I have concluded that for the most part Democrats have no better answer to what to do in Iraq than does George Bush. In fact, despite their claims that Bush has lost touch with the reality of Iraq, they have less of a grasp on the situation, much less, than does he.

McQ then quotes from an exchange between Diane Sawyer and John Edwards:

SAWYER: You are talked about withdrawing 40,000 to 50,000 troops immediately and then within a year pulling all out.


SAWYER: What does that say to the Iraqi people? What if ethnic cleansing begins? Do you send troops back?

SEN. EDWARDS: Let's start with the first part of your question. What it says to the Iraqi people is we've now reached the stage that you're going to have to take responsibility for your own country. What's happened is there has not been a serious effort at compromise between the Shia leadership, Maliki, and the Sunni leadership. As a result, this conflict has continued. First of all, we're saying to them, you're going to have to take responsibility.

In other words, why should Americans die if the Iraqis don't try to fix their own problems?

SAWYER: Is there the possibility of regional calamity if we pull out?

SEN. EDWARDS: The president hasn't prepared for the worst. As we shift responsibility to Iraqi leaders and get the Iranians, the Syrians and other countries engaged to help stabilize Iraq, I think America also has to prepare for the worst, which means we have to have a plan to control civil war if it gets worse.

SAWYER: What is the plan to control civil war execept going back in?

SEN. EDWARDS: It's not an easy thing. I mean, there are things you can do. You can set up buffer zones around the borders, move people out of population centers. I don't suggest it's easy. But I think America, also, the president has a responsibility to prepare with the international community for that possibility. And then, worst-case scenario, the possibility that genocide would break out.

Notice that the politician doesn't answer the yes/no question with a yes or no. Once you piece Edwards' words together, you realize that this exchange could have been much shorter:

SAWYER: Is there the possibility of regional calamity if we pull out?


McQ offers some additional thoughts:

The only obvious way to prevent genocide or reprisals and the collapse of the year old Iraqi government is to remain in Iraq until that government is capable of completing the reconciliation process and fend for itself. That then brings stability to the region. That prevents genocide. That prevents reprisals and government collapse. That prevents the possibility of a regional calamity which will require us to reenter the region in a much more lethal environment for our troops. But that also takes patience.

In the comments area, Scott Erb takes issue with McQ's conclusion.

Again, McQ, you seem to think we can fix the situation. If one doesn’t believe that, and if one sees an international solution as the only thing that can work, then it is the best bet. We’ve been failing for four years, the situation there is as bleak as ever, and while I appreciate eternal optimism in the "new strategy," and efforts to glean good news from particular blogs or reports, the reality is that there is in general pessimism that this is going to do much at all, and recognition that the US military is tremendously overstretched.

The fact is that an international solution is emerging as the only option with any hope of success. The task of "fixing" Iraq is not one we are capable of, and we may be doing more harm than good. That said the way we move to an international solution and the role we play in it is still an open question.

Of course, there's an open question as to whether an international solution would work any better. Marc is doubtful.

History has shown what the "international solution" (read U.N.) can achieve. Not much!

And Francis alleges that Republican concern is selective.

The Republican party concern for foreigners seems very situation-specific. Why the pressure to leave Somalia? Why the pressure not to intervene in the Balkans? Where was the pressure to intervene in the Congo? Why aren’t US troops on the ground in Sudan / Haiti / Zimbabwe / Somalia, just to mention some of the worst spots on the planet right now?


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