I have no idea what to do about Iraq.
I wish we could pull our troops out now, right now, bring them all home and be done with it.
But in order to argue for that it seems to me that I have to believe that our very presence there has become the problem, that we are making things worse by the day, and that something good for Iraq, or at least nothing worse, would come from our getting the hell out now.
Or that I have to believe that the lives of our troops are worth more than the lives of any number of Iraqis, men, women, and children, and what happens after we cut and run is not our headache anymore.
The second proposition is reprehensible.
But I'm beginning to believe the first. The chaos is widening, our troops as they become more frustrated and demoralized will more and more see the Iraqi people, all of them, as their enemies, the insurgents' and terrorists' main recruiting motivation is to kill Americans and drive us from their country. The civil war that seems inevitable, that really in fact is underway, may only be prolonged by our efforts to stop it and if we get out of its way the war will happen but happen quickly and decisively and be over in a short time, because right now we are fighting to prevent the majority from taking control of their own country.
It may be that more Iraqis will die from our efforts to stave off civil war than would die in one that erupts after we leave. That's assuming, of course, that as soon as such a war is over Iraq will be quickly return to peace and the winners will not punish the losers.
It may be that while getting out now will have horrible consequences for Iraq, staying will have even more horrible consequences for the world. The war is destroying our Army and has shredded our reputation among other nations. Nobody we need to be scared of us is scared, or scared enough. No countries we need to respect us and follow our lead do or will anymore.
But getting out might not change that because the man who ruined our Army and our reputation will still be President.
On the other hand, George Bush himself is an argument for immediate withdrawl from Iraq. He clearly has no plan for the war except to hope that the insurgents run out of bullets, bombs, and bodies soon and he can declare victory, again, and bring the troops home for a lot of parades and some photo op memorial services.
Failing that, he is hoping that the American people will get tired of worrying about the war and forget about it until he leaves office and it becomes the next President's nightmare.
Making messes and leaving them to others to clean up is the defining story arc of George Bush's life.
So I'm beginning to think cutting and running is the best of a lot of terrible choices.
But I'm not sure. There are too many assumptions behind my feeling. And quite possibly it is more a matter of wishful thinking than serious analysis.
On top of that, while I can make the case that getting out now is the best thing to do, it still doesn't feel like the responsible thing.
George Bush made the mess, but he made it in our name with most of the nation cheering him on. It should be our job to clean it up.
The question is, Can we clean it up?
After the election I wrote a post praising John Kerry as a good man. In it I said that at least Kerry would be spared the historical irony of having to be the one to ask some soldier to be the last man to die for a mistake.
I thought at the time that if Kerry had been elected, we would stay in Iraq longer. I figured that George Bush was far more likely to find an excuse to declare victory and bug out, while Kerry would set out to solve the problem. That's because of the biggest difference between him and Bush.
John Kerry is a responsible grown-up.
Of course, I didn't take into account the Bush Leaguers' ability to take any situation and screw it up even worse than it is already screwed up. Bush hasn't been able to find his excuse to cut and run. And Kerry, finding upon taking office just how awful things were over there, might have decided we had no choice but to get out now.
But that wasn't Kerry's plan. Many Democrats and Liberals have condemned Kerry for not having been more forceful in his attacks on Bush's private little war. I think, though, that Kerry couldn't bring himself to do that because he knew that if elected he would do what Bush said he was doing. Kerry would have tried to bring stability and democracy to Iraq.
I believe his plan would have involved more UN cooperation, which he would have been able to secure, more regular troops, more support for the troops on the ground---including real armored Humvees---and a lot fewer search and destroy missions, so that even though we would have stayed, the casualty count, of both American and Iraqis, would have gone down.
At the time, this would have been the responsible thing to do. I'm not sure it would have been a feasible thing to do.
It is looking less feasible every day. But it still might be the responsible thing to do.
Which is why, although I am coming around to the position that we should get out as fast as we can, I am sympathetic to arguments that say that as fast as we can is very slowly, over a period of time that may be a matter of a couple of years.
Erik Loomis made such an argument a few days ago, and, as you probably heard, Steve Gilliard attacked him for it.
Gilliard didn't attack Loomis' argument. He attacked Loomis. Steve called Erik a coward, and then he got mean.
His commenters were less kind.
Rob Farley and Dave Watkins at Lawyers, Guns and Money have come to Erik's defense more ably than I could. Rob comes through here, here, and here. Dave's post is here. And Erik has stood up for himself quite well. He doesn't need my help. But I just can't let it go.
Steve believes body and soul that the horror in Iraq is only going to get worse and we need to get out now or we will only contribute to making it worse. He is furious at what the war is doing to the Iraqis and to the Americans over there, not just to our troops' bodies but to their very souls. Only evil can come of our staying there.
But by the logic of his other argument, that only those who are willing to go over there and fight can argue for not cutting and running, no men over the age of 40 and no women of any age, because women cannot go into combat, have any right to argue for any other course except immediate withdrawl.
This is not a very practical way to run a foreign policy or a country---the only people who get a say in a matter are those whose lives are at immediate risk? Unless we institute universal military service, this means that only the military gets to decide when we go to war.
And Steve and his supporters who are following his line that all young men who aren't for immediate withdrawl but who haven't enlisted are cowards should remember what Bobby Kennedy used to say was the only honorable course for young men during Vietnam.
Oppose the war and then enlist and go fight it.
Things get very tricky when you make an argument about quien is muy macho? You call your own manliness into question too, and there will always be someone who has an opinion about that you won't much like.
There is a big difference between arguing that we need to get out slowly while doing everything we can to save as many Iraqis as we can and leave them something like a livable country and cheerleading for war and more war, for staying there until we kill every last raghead whose mere existence scares you in your sleep and for expanding the war to Iran, Syria, wherever, to kill everyone whose mere existence frightens the bejeebus out of you.
We on the Left may be too quick and easy to accuse supporters of the war on the Right of cowardice. The despicable thing about the likes of Jonah Goldberg is not that they won't enlist. It's the positive glee they take in the killing and their absolute callousness towards those who are killed, American soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike.
On top of this, they glorify soldiering and dying for the flag then attach the glory earned by those who actually soldier and die to themselves. They are pretend soldiers, sending others off to serve Jonah's vanity.
We can argue about whether or not that's just depraved or if it's cowardly as well some other time.
Steve Gilliard's accusation that any able bodied young man who supports the war but doesn't march right off to go fight is a coward is, however, not an argument. It's not even meant as an argument. It is a stick with which to beat able bodied young men into accepting his opinion.
Steve can make the case for immediate withdrawl without having to insult or belittle.
He can feel whatever way he wants to feel but he should remember what Bobby Kennedy would have said about able bodied young men who oppose a war.
Steve should also be aware that he undercuts his own argument by calling yellow on anyone who disagrees with him.
He is making immediate withdrawl the coward's default position. "I'm too scared to go fight myself, so I'd better be for not fighting."
Liberals and Democrats have enough trouble fighting off accusations of treason and anti-American sentiment. We ought not hand the Right the word coward to throw at us too.
They'll still call us yellow, but why make the mud pies for them and tell them which direction to sling them?