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August 22, 2005

Russ Makes Sense

I think this exchange between [host] David Gregory and Russ Feingold on this week's Meet the Press does a very good job of exposing the basic incoherence of the withdrawal-means-the-terrorists-have-already-won position:

MR. GREGORY: Not only has the president said that any kind of deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops is a mistake, but so have prominent members of your own party... Senator Hillary Clinton this February, the headline: "Hillary Rejects Deadline." "I don't think we should be setting a deadline. ...That just gives a green light to the insurgents and the terrorists, that if they just wait us out they can basically have the country. It's not in our interest, given the sacrifices we have made."

SEN. FEINGOLD: Well, of course, I haven't proposed a deadline. But, you know, the Democrats are making the same mistake they made in 2002, to let the administration intimidate them into not opposing this war, when so many of us knew it wasn't a good idea. And same thing with this taboo on talking about a timeline. It doesn't make sense. If the terrorists and the insurgents really thought that, why wouldn't they just stop blowing us up right now? Why wouldn't they just let us leave and then take over?

Russ is absolutely right. If the insurgency's aim was to eject us from Iraq so they could take over in our absence (though I've yet to see how they plan to do that), they wouldn't be hardening the Pharaoh's heart through bombings and IED's, they'd be laying quiet, letting things go smoothly so we'd pack up and go home and they could suit up and conquer their home.

I'd love to hear Hillary Clinton explain how the insurgents are going to go about having the country after our departure. The Iraqi constitution is being bogged down because Sunnis want access to the oil-rich areas within the Shi'ite territory. Do the math: the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite, the oil is deep within the region they control, and the Sunnis need some of those profits to survive. So exactly how is this insurgency, which is being carried out by a fraction of a minority, going to overrun the country? And if their actions simply enrage the Shi'ites, as they will, doesn't it make sense that the rest of the Sunnis, who hold no demographic or economic cards, will be desperate for rapprochement and begin quelling the extremists in their own ranks?

So long as we're there, there's a buffer between the Iraqi people and those trying to destroy them. The insurgents may not be liked, but their actions can be rationalized as anti-imperialist warfare. Once we leave, they can't. Once we leave, the Sunnis need to figure out what strategies will put them in a sustainable position. Considering their percentage of the population and their geographic location, a rupture with the Shi'ites isn't going to survive that analysis.

August 22, 2005 in Iraq | Permalink


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It's a problem of perceptions which makes it a difficult one indeed. If the US is seen as having been defeated by this type of warfare (which contains aspects of terrorism but also more legitimate guerilla tactics), there are worrisome implications for our ability to project power elsewhere.

The analogy to the Gaza situation seems helpful. The Israelis set a deadline and to this point, it seems to have worked pretty well. Had they not convincingly defeated Hamas, IJ and the rest in advance, it would not have been possible. Once the US and the Iraqi army have at least quieted the insurgency, they can set a deadline for the Americans to withdraw. They aren't there yet.

Posted by: quietstorm | Aug 22, 2005 1:12:43 PM

They almost certainly couldn't take over, but unfortunately I can think of a reason why the Sunni insurgents would not lay low. If they in fact believe they can somehow regain control of Iraq after we left, they would do what they're doing now -- focusing their attacks less on foreign troops and more on those that would be in control once we left.

If the insurgents held back, then the Iraqi police and security infrastructure would be much stronger and more in control when our troops leave, making the Sunni's goal more difficult.

Posted by: PapaJijo | Aug 22, 2005 1:19:26 PM

If the current situation in Haditha according to this report from the Guardian is an indication, quieting the insurgency may prove to be impossible:


Do the Shias really have what it takes to restore the authority of the Iraqi government in such places? I am beginning to think they do not, nor does the U.S. Army. At best, I think Juan Cole is right to say that about all we can do is prevent the insurgency from massing forces for set piece battles.

Posted by: David W. | Aug 22, 2005 1:20:34 PM

Another view worth considering on withdrawal:

The withdraw/no withdraw discussion is getting more complicated as we see parts of Bush's hand being played out.

The relentless push to get the Constitution (and the previous interim government election) 'done', and to move next to ratification and then new government elections (in January) is likely telling us quietly that Bush intends a big drawdown in forces (to maybe 80-100,000) in 2006 and is using these milestones to make the case that conditions now allow for the withdrawal that could follow 'staying the course'. The actions of the US ambassador to get almost ANY constitution approved reveals a push from BushCo in this direction.

So what is going on here? Bush won't and can't do less than 'stay the course' because he is 'resolute' - it is part of his persona. But, he has made it clear that when unspecified 'conditions' are right, we 'won't stay a day longer than necessary'.

So the withdrawal issue is a sucker punch by BushCo. Deny any plans to withdraw, but push like mad to put in place items that can justify withdrawal of some kind before the 06 elections - winning by staying the course.

This says nothing, of course, about whether we intend a permanent military force of 30-60,000 in Iraq - that will never be discussed by BushCo.

If this sucker punch (urgently planning and shaping withdrawal while denying it and insisting on staying the course) is what is going on behind the Wizard's screen and Mighty Wurlitzer, does that tell us how a Dem. position on withdrawal might deal with that coming BushCo reality?

In effect, Bush has in place a conditional withdrawal strategy, but one whose conditions are not spoken, and therefore can be changed as things evolve. With a new constitution and new government, the only thing left is Iraqi military forces capable of securing stability of some kind. The later item is solely within Bush's power to declare as having been (partially) met.

This is not a bad domestic political strategy (if one believes in no-holds-barred politics - as Bush does), but is not democratically honest, or wise when viewed from the international relations viewpoint. Get what you can, and yield what you must. Almost any result is victory, including a Shia theocracy.

What is wrong with this likely Bush strategy? Is is completely undemocratic for starters. Neither the US or Iraqi people know what the conditions are for withdrawal. It is completely unprincipled as well. Any constitution or any government seems to be acceptable. So, undemocratic, and unprincipled! Sounds like just what Rove/Bush would have in mind.

The element not yet spelled out here is the ratfuck. How to get the Democrats to play into Rovian/Bushian hands to turn a military and political disaster into an electoral victory in 06 and 08?

First, split the Dem. opposition and keep the political support of the Repub. base. Give the Dems no plan to attack, and relentlessly repeat that the US will stay the course until (undefined) success.

Visciously attack as unpatriotic any Dem (or Repub.)demands for a withdrawal timetable or set of conditions.

If the Dems (Hillary et. al.) talk about the need for continued US presence, say little except point out over and over the Dem. division on the issue.

If the Dems (like Feingold) talk about the need for withdrawal, paint them and pillage them as weak, surrendering fools.

When BushCo begins the withdrawal after declaring victory on their invisible plan that achieved Bush's invisible goals, point out that only BushCo resolution and plans achieved patriotic victory.

How do the Dems avoid this Rovian ratfuck? This is pure politics to BushCo, and talk of the merits or demerits of various withdrawal/non-withdrawal ideas misses the major hidden context being pursued by Bush.

I could be wrong, very wrong, but the ratfuck is already in place. When Bush announces 'mission accomplished' again, will the Democrats have any potent reply?

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 22, 2005 1:34:36 PM

Geeze, Jimmy, get a job.

Says Fred Jones, who has offered a comment (or more!) on four of the last five threads. By the way, comment integrity is null when all it contains is a personal attack. And it's going to be really hard for me not to screw with it when it's as hypocritical as Fred's. -- Ezra

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 22, 2005 3:10:57 PM

denied the three-state solution, the sides draw lines for the inevitable civil war.

in 15 years this will be remembered as the war that started out like gulf war I, turned into vietnam, and finally ended up being a replay of kosovo once we left.

Posted by: the shreeking ape | Aug 22, 2005 3:36:02 PM

Jerome Armstrong at MyDD asks for comment on a series of comments by 'Miri' at dKos, responding to Armando's post "It is time" and other recent posts.

A couple of 'graphs of Jerome's post:

If you do the "right thing", and it sets the Democrats back like it did after '68, with the Democrat-GOP poloraization contributing to the war lasting an additional six years, what have you gained?

Miri is right, that the reason why Bush is at 36% approval right now is because the public does not see the failure in Iraq as political fight between the Democrats and the Republicans. The reason why Bush is being criticized from all sides is that the Democrats have not polarized his war into their own as well. Instead of doing that, the best strategy is to say "We're all in this together, Bush is in charge, he fucked up, now what's he gonna do about it?"

This discussion is really significant. We must get the best outcome in Iraq possible, not only on the internal situation in Iraq, but politically here at home as well after withdrawal is in motion but for decades ahead - as we saw in the aftermath of Vietnam.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 22, 2005 4:52:04 PM

oh damn, forgot the appropriate journamalism in comment above: read 'graphs as 'grafs. heh heh

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 22, 2005 4:54:18 PM

double damn! here's the correct link to Jerome's post at mydd.


Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 22, 2005 4:57:22 PM

"they could take over in our absence (though I've yet to see how they plan to do that)"

Excuse me, got to go to Wikipedia to see how the Sunnis managed to control the Shia Holy Places for several hundred years, and how Saddam and his predecessors managed Sunni dominance as a minority.

Honest. But I am not assuming they have no chance, since there is that history.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 22, 2005 6:11:31 PM

"though I've yet to see how they plan to do that)"


Are the Sunni "insurgents" attacking all Shia, any Shia, every Shia or only particular Shia? I as because Sadr City has been relatively peaceful.

1)Sistani and al Sadr oppose partition. Sadr's base is in the 5 million poor Shia in Sadr City, the suburb of Baghdad. Sistani preaches a form of Shia pretty inimical to that in Iran, and Iran would prefer him and his allies gone.

2) Hakim (SCIRI and very close to Iran) has asked for the nine Southern provinces (Shia) be granted independence and all the oil revenues from wells located there. The Kurds have expressed similar demands about Kirkuk.

Is it inconceivable that Sadr and Sistani, looking at some kind of civil war between Shia & Shia, and between Shia & Kurd; and looking at Baghdad and the poor being deprived of oil revenue, might ally with the Sunni in order to create a working majority and a strongman somewhat outside of these fratricidal disputes?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 22, 2005 8:32:15 PM

Says Fred Jones, who has offered a comment (or more!) on four of the last five threads.

Well, Ezra, I have a great job. I work for myself...only because I can make a lot more money. BTW, just bought a bitchin' motorcycle. You like bikes?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Aug 23, 2005 10:36:28 AM

Yeah, you're rolling in the dough, got a good ride, a Hispanic girlfriend 2/3rds your age, but you always manage to show up with a new comment on the EVIL, EVIL I TELL YOU Amanda for our enlightenment.

"Some of these things don't belong", to paraphrase Sesame Street.

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Posted by: motorcycle oil | Feb 8, 2007 4:50:04 PM

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