Iraq

Should We Stay or Should We Go Now? Yes.

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Here's an Iraq update for those of us (including me) who stopped paying close attention because the whole thing was too damned depressing:

1. Most Americans, including some prominent supporters of the war, now agree it was a mistake to invade.

2. We can't just leave, because (even more) chaos would ensue.

3. We have to leave, because otherwise the Iraqis will never take responsibility for their own security and make the difficult political compromises necessary for stability.

In light of these facts, the wise elder statesmen in the Iraq Study Group have come up with the perfect solution: pretend to leave. The New York Times reports that the panel "will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal." The pullback might not amount to a withdrawal; the troops might stay on military bases in Iraq or somehere nearby. But it still seems at odds with President Bush's insistence that "I'm not going to pull the troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete." And this unfirm nonwithdrawal is aimed at scaring Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki into taking a stand, or compromising, or whatever it is he's supposed to do to restore some semblance of the peace and order Iraq enjoyed under the murderous dictator with the bushy mustache whom the U.S. government deposed without completely thinking through the consequences. The members of the commission are patting themselves on the back for coming up with this subtle equivocation:

"I think everyone felt good about where we ended up," one person involved in the commission's debates said after the group ended its meeting. "It is neither 'cut and run' nor 'stay the course.' "

"Those who favor immediate withdrawal will not like it," he said, but it also "deviates significantly from the president's strategy." …

As one senior American military officer involved in Iraq strategy said, "The question is whether it doesn't look like a timeline to Bush, and does to Maliki."

Let's just hope that Bush and Maliki never talk to each other. Or read a paper.

Update: It looks like Bush is not falling for it. Who told?

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  1. Well, if we go there will be trouble, and if we stay it will be double. Seems pretty obvious what to do.

  2. Is there anyone at all left that thinks Iraq is not going to become a far worse humanitarian fuck story than it is right now? Today, tomorrow, next year, it doesn’t really matter. Blood will flow in the streets and we, the American people, can say “But we meant well.”

  3. “Pretend to pull out.”

    The joke practically writes itself.

  4. We’re not cutting and running, we’re engaging in a strategic reallocation of assets from Iraq to Kuwait.

    I made the mistake of having Kudlow on in the background yesterday. He’s always good for a fresh pile of steaming talking points. Apparently the mess in Iraq is Maliki’s fault. If you don’t buy that then the next step is to blame the troops. The generals just didn’t execute on Bush’s plans very well.

  5. Bottom line: The U.S. Army can’t make Iraqis like each other. The Iraq crack-up was probably inevitable whenever and however Saddam fell from power. The most realistic option following the invasion would have been to rather rudely destroy anything that looked like an advanced weapon, set up an interim govt, and get the hell out. But we have this curious mix of arrogance and naivete to think that we can export our governmental culture like a commodity.

  6. Our troops should don cunning disguises. Like Star Wars characters. Or Muppets. Everyone loves Muppets.

  7. Is there any reason to think that the situation in Iraq will be better – now or in the long run – if the troops are there for another 3 years? [Or however long.]

    If there is, I’d like to hear specific reasons and benchmarks.

    I realize that in a guerilla war, specific timelines are not possible. However, there should be some way of determining if there is progress.

    Otherwise, “Maliki” is just the Iraqi word for “Big Minh”.

  8. I think everyone felt good about where we ended up…

    Cause feelings is what the whole thing is about…we felt afraid of the Iraqi’s WMD so we invaded; the Iraqi’s feel afraid of one another now so they kill each other; now we feel afraid of the mess, so we talk about withdrawing; they feel hatred for the mess, so they want us to go (but won;t ask); Bush feels like we have a job to finish, but can;t say exactly how we’ll know when it’s done…when does everyone stop feeling and start thinking?

    I think we’ll be there for some time to come…located on our bases right next to the oil fields in Kurdistan.

  9. Re: My previous post
    Insert “other than GWB and Dick Cheney” between “anyone at all” and “who still believes”.

  10. Our troops should don cunning disguises. Like Star Wars characters. Or Muppets. Everyone loves Muppets.

    C is for Camouflage. Good enough for me.

  11. I envision an elite squad of Special Forces Muppet frogs. With lethal, quick-striking tongues.

  12. It’s not easy being Green Berets.

  13. Of course the Iraqi’s will never “take responsibility for their own security” because no one with any power in Iraq has any interest in making the current government work, including, I suspect, Maliki. What the factions in Iraq are doing right now is positioning themselves for best advantage in the full-scale cataclysm that will follow the American withdrawl.

  14. GWB –“We’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there.”

    What is the job? What is our mission? A peaceful, democratic, tolerant Iraqi society? It ain’t gonna happen, Georgie. Admit you failed, miscalculated, screwed up, all of the above. Get our troops out of there, NOW!

  15. “a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal”

    was the Bush strategy throughout 2004 and 2005. Remember when the number in troops in country went from 150,000 to 130,000?

    If the redeployment isn’t bound to a timeline, it is bound to “conditions on the ground” which are never going to be good enough to allow Bush to withdraw troops without transparently flip-flopping on his promise to “finish the job.”

    Great plan, fellas. You just guaranteed that the argument we’ve been having for the past year – should we stay or should we go – is going to be the central dispute in the 2008 presidential election, two years and 1500 more American dead from now.

  16. Send Miss Piggy instead.

    Imagine the fear all that angry pork would strike in Islamist hearts!

  17. There is another option which worked well for the British for a while. Colonization anyone? Might as well come full circle. Atleast we’ll be close enough to Israel for house parties then. Sure there’d be a massive war against the invaders, but atleast it’d be a straightforward course of action and we’d be sitting on all the oil. Thanks to G”I”W Bush, we’re fucked no matter what. Might as well give up this whole pretense of restoring democracy.

  18. El is correct. There is nothing proposed to change the political dynamic inside Iraq. The “plan” is still for the central government and the security forces to try to defeat all of the other powers in the country militarily. The withdrawal of the occupation forces could have been utilzed as a tool to further an internal political settlement. Instead, the plan seems to be to leave the political situation as it is, while providing less support for “our” side.

  19. Send Miss Piggy instead.

    Imagine the fear all that angry pork would strike in Islamist hearts!

    Miss Piggy? Hell, send the entire “Pigs in Space” crew.

  20. thoreau,

    Ah, I’m getting sluggish in my old age. Shoulda come up with that one myself.

    Aresen,

    Nah, they’d see through a Miss Piggy disguise. Too infidelesque. Now if you’d suggested Evil Bert, well, that would have been something. Evil Bert has direct access to bin Laden.

  21. I don’t know, Animal and Dr. Teeth could go over there and kick some serious ass.

  22. there’s already mayhem, might as well make it electric?

    ugh, i’m groaning at my own post.

  23. We should side with the Sunnis. I respect them alot more than the Shias.

    The Sunnis hate Americans because we took away their power. They never pretended to want this democracy nonsense and fought us from the start.

    The Shias, on the other hand, have every reason in the world to be riding around flying American flags. They take our protection but hate us even though we were the only thing stopping them from being slaughtered for a while.

    Sunnis will run a brutal, dictorial state but it will at least be an enemy of Iran and have some secular leadership.

    Support the Baathists.

  24. Our troops should don cunning disguises. Like Star Wars characters.

    Just don’t dress them up like stormtroopers. We want them to be able to hit something when they shoot. And don’t dress them up like Jedi. Then they won’t get laid, and nothing’s worse than a horny soldier.

    There is another option which worked well for the British for a while. Colonization anyone?

    From the standpoint of the average Iraqi man on the street (and especially woman on the street), that might be the best solution. It wouldn’t be worth the shitstorm of public opinion, let alone the violation of the rights of the Iraqi people to self-determination, but . . . at least people wouldn’t die in droves.

  25. Wait. Not Star Wars. Star Trek. Oh, my, this is sheer genius. Dress all of our troops up as red-shirted guys from the original series. No one in their right mind would be scared of soldiers so clad. Yes, we’ll have Iraq subdued in a week if this plan is carried out.

  26. If the redeployment isn’t bound to a timeline, it is bound to “conditions on the ground”

    The alternative, of course, is to withdraw regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of conseqences.

    That sounds to me like a recipe for the worst of both worlds – a scenario where America is seen as being driven out of Iraq and defeated by jihadis/Iran, thus empowering our enemies, ensuring that no one will ever trust as an ally again, while leaving an Iraq in chaos and in the middle of a full-on civil war that will end, at best, with a round of mutual ethnic cleansing.

  27. Wait. Not Star Wars. Star Trek. Oh, my, this is sheer genius. Dress all of our troops up as red-shirted guys from the original series. No one in their right mind would be scared of soldiers so clad. Yes, we’ll have Iraq subdued in a week if this plan is carried out.

    Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not an imperialist!

  28. “The alternative, of course, is to withdraw regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of conseqences.”

    See my earlier point about the complete absense of thought about political means replacing military means.

    Redploying our troops is a tool we could wield to advance our interests, if we had a leadership capable of thinking in terms more complicated than a Rambo movie. “Should we kill em more, or kill em less?”

    Oh, well. Maybe after 2008.

  29. RC,

    In other, less bitter, words:

    It isn’t about withdrawing regardless of conditions on the ground; it’s about withdrawing as the best means of improving conditions on the ground.

    The only way for us to avoid a military defeat, the creation of an Al-Qaeda-friendly terror state (or statelet) in some or all of the Sunni areas, and all of the other terrible things your side keeps poiting out, is for there to be a political/peace process among the Iraqis themselves, and other interested parties. That cannot ever happen as long as we are maintaining an occupation.

  30. Pro L, the problem with dressing our guys up in red shirts is that they’re already getting killed before the first commercial. No real change there.

    My favorite take on all this was provided by the feminist blog “Shakespeare’s Sister,” which said we’re not going to ‘cut and run,’ just ‘trim and saunter.’

  31. Karen

    “the problem with dressing our guys up in red shirts is that they’re already getting killed before the first commercial. No real change there.”

    Hilarious.

    But they were always the son of Jim Kirk’s old friend and would be avenged before they beamed out.

  32. “Our troops should don cunning disguises.”

    The way to do that is to wear no uniforms at all — i.e. as guerillas, plainclothesmen, covert ops, whatever you may call them. They’ll have to send the blacks & Orientals home, and adopt local dress. The way they’ll recognize each other is personally, so no large unit operations. Assumed names, of course. Either learn the language or pretend to be deaf.

    And when you operate this way, you get to kill people by really cool ways like poisoning & strangulation. Make it look like an accident, of course.

    Come to think of it, why don’t all countries fight all wars like that? Seems like it’d be a lot safer than the conventional way, and probably more fun, because of the element of surprise. You get to sneak up on people and kill them even though they had no idea, and thought you were their friend for years. And you got plausible deniability. And it’s gotta really grate on their nerves, when they have no idea where the next blow is coming from. And with no obvious motive, you’d be tough to detect. The possibilities just with poisons are enormous.

    Actually, for all we know most wars are fought like that! If they’re successful, nobody knows!!

  33. Robert, what you’re calling for is some dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

    For those serving in Iraq, we salute you.

  34. Thoreau

    Thats all good, but do you feel safe in New York city?

    Or have you forgotten. About Bin Laden.

  35. But we have this curious mix of arrogance and naivete to think that we can export our governmental culture like a commodity.

    How about “But we have this curious mix of hypocracy and brutality to think that we have the right to export our governmental culture like a commodity”.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why everybody is talking about pulling out of Iraq based on the current civil war there, but virtually nobody is talking about pulling out of Iraq because the US had no right to slaughter them in the first place?

  36. Frank

    The initial invasion has been argued repeatly in threads on this site. For myself, it was wrong to begin with. Others have argued that there were grounds for the invasion. Since the invasion happened, the argument is moot.

    The question now is what course of action will minimize harm to ALL parties.

  37. There are several posts up over at Steve Gilliard’s blog (along with a lot of excellent commentary) looking at the logistics of getting out as well as the present political situation.

    Basically, we have less time than we think. And the situation is likely to quickly turn very bad for the US.

    We may see an equivalent of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.

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