Indecent Interval

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By this time many people will have read Bob Novak's Sept. 20 column that leads:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.

While Novak admits the "reality of hard decisions ahead is obscured by blather on both sides in a presidential campaign", he adds:

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

The passage is interesting, obviously, because it posits a radical turnaround by Wolfowitz, the architect of the Iraq war and the person most associated with the notion of democratizing Iraq. I hear several alarm bells here, though, even though I could readily accept that the craven Rice would go along with any project that ensures she stays in office.

First, why would Wolfowitz be promoted if George W. Bush considers Iraq such a fiasco? What sense does it make to have the architect of Iraq face what would surely be a hostile congressional hearing? Having said that, if Wolfowitz is in line with a cut-and-run strategy, we will surely begin hearing that he only "did" Iraq to ensure that Israel would get Saddam out of the way. Personally, I don't think he's a liar on Iraqi democracy, and do think that if Iraq keels over, he will pretty much be history.

Second, what does Novak mean with the sources "are confidant"? Isn't that a way of saying that they just don't know, therefore that they are guessing? But if they aren't guessing, could they have an ulterior motive? And what's a "well-placed source" anyway? If it's someone at the State Department, for example, or even on the military side of the Pentagon, this could certainly temper the veracity of the quotes.

Third, if Bush is opting for a radical change in policy, then why keep on Hadley and Wolfowitz (above and beyond the Iraq setbacks)? If you're pulling out of Iraq, then you're also pulling out of the Middle East in a way. That means changing those national security people who all along recommended you go into the region. Real change means someone like Dick Lugar at State and some reliable old pro at Defense, someone reminiscent of a Frank Carlucci or a William Perry.

Finally, Novak ignores what cutting and running actually means in Iraq. He mentions civil war as if it were easily navigable for the U.S. It would be a major disaster, far worse than what we have now. What may ensue is a regional conflict, as all sides defend their interests–the Turks against the Kurds, the Iranians to protect their Shiite friends, the Saudis to help the Sunnis, the Syrians to weaken their own Kurds, but also avoid an Israeli attack against them to the east, perhaps through Lebanon, etc. Surely, the administration cannot be so irresponsible as to leave such a mess behind, especially if terrorists are seen to thrive in an Iraq where it's truly all against all.

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  1. Could it be the incumbent has the “secret plan” this time, seeing as how the challenger doesn’t have a clue?

  2. This could also be to deflect attention from the claims that came out last week (and were referenced over the weekend by Kerry) that Bush is planning on a massive troop call-up right after the election. Something important to consider about Bob Novak is that he is a Republican flack first and a non-interventionist second. He would only be running with this if he thought it would help Bush.

  3. Surely, the administration cannot be so irresponsible as to leave such a mess behind.

    Let’s all just chew on that for a while, shall we?

  4. My guess is that this is a fake leak aimed at the portions of Bush’s base that supported the war but are unhappy with nation-building.

  5. I’ll offer a counter-guess that it’s an actual policy decision aimed at the portions of Bush’s base that supported the war but are unhappy with nation-building.

    To be fair, I don’t think that Bush will truly pull out immediately following the election. I think the chances that the country would end up in civil war during his second term would be too high if he pulls out so soon. Look for a departure, decalration of victory, and ticker-tape parade somewhere around year 3. Watch the country gradually slide backwards during year 4 — nothing so bad will happen that it won’t just be spun. Then, during the first year of somebody else’s administration, everything can safely hit the fan while Dub is kicking it in the Mad Magazine wing of his new Prezidential Libary.

  6. “Surely, the administration cannot be so irresponsible as to leave such a mess behind.”

    Why not? it was irresponsible enough to create this mess in the first place.

  7. Cmon, people. This is another anonymously sourced Novak story.

    Novak is who you talk to if you are a frustrated bureaucratic lifer who is losing the debate in the halls of the administration.

    Ergo, this tells you that the Arabists at the State Department have had another go at getting Bush to back off, and have failed.

  8. Yeah, but it looks like the “Arabists” in the Justice Department and the FBI are ready to roll up Larry Franklin and the Israeli spy nest in the Pentagon. And now this. What’s next? Will AIPAC be compelled to register as agents of a foreign power?

    If anybody seems to have lost the debate, it’s the Amen Corner.

  9. Michael Young :

    “It would be a major disaster, far worse than what we have now”

    The contention that the US government is a stabilizing influence in the neighborhood seems like a real stretch. Check out this story:

    Turkey Outraged Over U.S. Attacks On Northern Iraq:

    It is claimed, by Iraqi Turkmen groups in Turkey, that these attacks have left 120 dead and over 200 injured.

    http://feeds.bignewsnetwork.com/?sid=f48693ba7d193bbf

    And this was one of our government’s members of the coalition of the billing!

    The US forces seems to be the target in Iraq, as Iraqi forces or police are only attacked if they are in service to the US troops. There doesn’t seem to be some civil war brewing.

    The principle that holds that US troops should only be committed when they are required for our security dictates that they should now be brought home, since, by this principle, they never should have gone to Iraq.

    How many more lives would it be worth to have our government stay in Iraq? How many more American lives would it be worth to have an Iraqi government on par with say, the brutal Egyptian Regime to which our government commits three or four billion dollars every year? Or, on par with the thug Jordanian government that receives $500 million in US tax support, or to have the Iraqis live like the Palestinian’s whose brutal occupation by the Israeli government is the US government’s most expensive foreign aid commitment by far.

    Is it realistic to expect that our government can “make” the Iraqis any more free than the Egyptians? How many more lives and American lives is it worth to try? And, since our government does support that brutal Egyptian regime in the amount that it does, and since it supports the occupation of the Palestinian’s land by a manifestly racist Sharon regime; why should the Iraqis ever believe that our government intends anything good for them?

    We need to set a timetable and negotiate a withdrawal. This mission was sold to us as a “get the WMD before they get us” task. The American people never would have approved it for any other reason. If our government stays, the neocons that played this bait and switch game on us will bem further rewarded for their duplicity, and in a position to agitate for an attack against Syria or Iran next.

  10. Just curious — who thinks Wolfowitz would be confirmed by the Senate?

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