Friday, April 18, 2008

Getting Out of Iraq - Insanity or Responsibility?

How important is getting the U.S. out of Iraq to you? At the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night in Philadelphia, both Clinton and Obama were asked how determined they were to stick to their plans to get the U.S. out of the war in Iraq. (Clinton’s position has been that within 60 days of taking office she will begin withdrawing one or two brigades a month. Obama has pledged to have us out of Iraq within 16 months or less.)

Moderator Charlie Gibson added this scenario to his basic question:
So if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one and said this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going to order those troops to come home?
Both candidates said yes, and defended their answers. I hesitate to quote from their answers because I don’t want to distort their positions. It is best that you read their responses from the
transcript of the debate, but I will select the lines I thought central to their arguments. You can see if you agree or not.

Senator Clinton reminded Gibson about the role of civilian leadership in this country:
You know, thankfully we have a system in our country of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice and then they execute the policies of the president. I have watched this president as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goalposts when it comes to Iraq.

And I am convinced that it is in America's best interest, it is in the best interest of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interest of Iraq, that upon taking office, I will ask the secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days…

So the bottom line for me is, we don't know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq. The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its own future. Our military will continue to be stretched thin, and our soldiers will be on their second, third, even their fourth deployment. And we will not be able to reassert our leadership and our moral authority in the world.
Senator Obama’s answer to the same question:
Because the commander in chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus.

Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad mission, set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.

Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics. Once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq and we are going to have our combat troops out, we will not have permanent bases there, once I've provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration; but ultimately the buck stops with me as the commander in chief.

And what I have to look at is not just the situation in Iraq, but the fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, we continue to see anti-American sentiment fanned all cross the Middle East, we are overstretched in a way -- we do not have a strategic reserve at this point… That is not sustainable. That's not smart national security policy, and it's going to change when I'm president.
These two responses, one by Clinton and one by Obama, prompted columnist David Brooks
to write that “Obama and Clinton were completely irresponsible…
Nobody knows what the situation in Iraq will be like. To pledge an automatic withdrawal is just insane. A mature politician would’ve been honest and said: “I fully intend to withdraw, but I want to know what the reality is at that moment.”
I won’t take up here what Senator McCain and the Republicans would say about the answers given by Clinton and Obama, but I can imagine—“unpatriotic” is the first word that comes to mind.

But I couldn’t help but wonder what the Republicans thought of the Institute for National Strategic Studies’ (INSS)
report on the Iraq war issued today, the opening line of which was this:
Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle.
This report is not from some Leftist think tank in Washington; it is from an arm of the Pentagon. Among other tasks, it produces Joint Force Quarterly, a professional military and security journal published for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After detailing the number of casualties, the dollar costs, and the uncalculated costs to care for veterans of the war, the report goes on with its indictment:
The war’s political impact also has been great. Globally, U.S. standing among friends and allies has fallen.2 Our status as a moral leader has been damaged by the war, the subsequent occupation of a Muslim nation, and various issues concerning the treatment of detainees. At the same time, operations in Iraq have had a negative impact on all other efforts in the war on terror, which must bow to the priority of Iraq when it comes to manpower, materiel, and the attention of decisionmakers. Our Armed Forces—especially the Army and Marine Corps—have been severely strained by the war in Iraq. Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.
The sixty page report concludes with this summary and recommendation:
In conclusion, the war in Iraq and its aftermath have exposed a flawed decisionmaking process and weak decision execution mechanisms. In planning for and executing operations in Iraq, basic organizations, organizational cultures, operational procedures, and legislative support systems all have been found wanting and in need of fundamental reform. Our National Security Council staff, Cabinet departments, and especially our Congress have not yet adapted to the demanding requirements of 21st-century complex contingencies. One hopes that, for all of its problems, the decision to invade Iraq and subsequent operations there may point the way to national security reform.
Do you suppose President Bush will ever see this document? I hope the members of Congress read it.

Are Senators Clinton and Obama “insane,” as Brooks suggested? Or, are they the responsible ones who see the necessity of getting out of Iraq as soon as possible? What do you think?

- Milo


Anonymous said...

Americans are insanely in love - with weapons, violence and war.

Ethical logic does not apply comfortably or easily.

Patriotic passion distorts reason.

Lots of people die.

We move on.






Anonymous said...

Not invited, not wanted. Face the facts and act.

Anonymous said...

Good diary
Interesting collection of excerpts, with Mr Brook's contribution being the exception that proves the rule.

We have to extract ourselves from that war, while ensuring things do not get worse. How? I do not know.

Anonymous said...

It is our responsibility to get out, not only for the sake of our country but for all countries. If we give a deadline for withdrawing will this not send a message to the government of Iraq to get on with the program and establish a resonsible government of their own. I know this is a bit simplistic but where is the current incentive to become self governing when the United States is like an over protective parent?


Anonymous said...

Iraq……Afghanistan……..Gaza…….Sudan…….The Patriot Act ………George Bush.....Abu Graib…..Guantanamo……US Government sponsored torture…..

In retrospect I am to blame for where we have ended up. I stood by and with every misstep the current Administration took….I wailed and cried but I didn’t do anything. I didn’t get driven to action to fight the Neo-Cons. I blamed them for everything…..I did nothing. I educated myself….I read the books…I sought out the news sources….but I still stood by and let others make decisions on my behalf. I cannot let this happen again. …..

I recognize the strength of the collective we….

But we didn’t get us into this…..I did….

It starts with the individual. It grows to the we.

If I don’t act I suffer.


We must do something about it.

But how ?

1) Vote

2) Encourage new media sources

3) Speak Out

I/We need an infusion of positive energy into my/our national leadership. I/We need to see a fresh political face. I/We need to pick that face.

What I/We need to make damn sure of is that I/We live up to my/our commitment to do my/our best to keep the leadership on track. I/We need to make sure my/our letter campaigns are socially useful, morally consistent and happening on a regular schedule. I/We need to write to our leaders and let them know why I/We am voting for them. I/We are going to hold them responsible for their actions once they do get into office. If they don’t live up to the platforms they campaigned on I/We will remind them where they have strayed.

History repeats itself. Why can’t it repeat the good things and the bad ones. We have all the negative examples we need….why can’t we bring out the good ones…..the (ongoing) Civil Rights movement ? The Anti-apartheid movement of South Africa ? Ghandi’s actions in the 1940’s ?

We have let mass media stray. It is time for we to reclaim it.

Our traditional media/information sources have been hijacked by big business and their agenda. FOX News for fair and balanced ? CNN ? ABC/CBS/NBC ? All victims of the ad dollar. All serve masters that are not the people that watch them. All of these news sources deliver a product that is being used to influence our opinion. Here’s the saddest part of it all. We have the biggest and best tool to combat these biased sources and we are only beginning to wake up to it’s true potential. The Internet. I say we take advantage of it. We don’t need to take over NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN/FOX/DISNEY…..we need to propagate ….we need to pass around….

While sitting on a plane increasing my carbon footprint I just watched “Lions for Lambs”. A great Left Wing soap box of a movie. Last week I watched two PBS documentaries (Frontline: Bush’s War / Frontline: Bad VooDoo). People need be exposed to the truths that these media bring out. All three examples are fantastic examples of working “Joe” up to a frenzy and then walking away.

(sidebar - letter campaign to the major network to follow…..why aren’t shows like these forcibly replacing things like “Dancing With Stars” ?)

This country has been hijacked and we have only ourselves to blame. We let the fox in while we were watching. He didn’t sneak in. We opened the door. Even when we caught George and Dick red-handed we let them go.

We the opposition must get it together. We must organize. We are guilty of many things. Organization and a killer instinct are not amongst them. We need to fight back with the grit and determination that George Bush and his cronies show every day in the policies that we so vehemently oppose.

How many of our current leaders today are talking about how massive a mistake entering into a war in Iraq were speaking how wrong it was at the time of 9-11 ? I am not using this to blame them…they are victims…they only heard one voice…the voice that spoke at the time said “fight violence with violence”. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t find friends and create a “we” to speak up. I/we were afraid to propose something as novel as a non-violent response.

There are people out there that are trying to do something to affect change. I recognize that you are one of them. I would like to be one too. I hope others will join us.


My challenge to you and your friends…….

Let’s corrupt the young and old with free thought and some open discussion. Don’t back down for fear that you are the minority. Sometimes, sensible opinions take root with time even if they start from the minority position.

Some thoughts…..

- make a facebook page

- video cast your discussions

- encourage monthly letter campaigns.

- Distribute recommended reading lists

- Distribute recommended internet media sites