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June 20, 2006

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A Republican analysis I read yesterday noted that Americans approved of the invasion in 2003 but disapprove now. The lesson he took from that was Americans did not mind wars but hated occupations. I remember Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Clinton's bombing of Iraq. I am afraid that this attitude, with wrong Presidents, could lead to a foreign policy based on dominance of sea & air morally worse than our present catastrophe. The choices actually available may not be the ones you imagine are available.

If I have seem hawkish and retro in nostalgia for the 50s & 60s, it is because I remember and understand certain right-wing recommendations. If Pres McCain's only choices with Iran are either carpet-bombing or even nukes, or negotiations and a loss of strategic position in the ME, he may not make the choice you would. An occupation is a terrible thing, but it is not the worse thing. At least Vietnam still exists.

Al Gore on Letterman this Friday (taped show):

DL: We have over 2,500 of our soldiers dead. Anywhere between 60,000 - 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead. Are we knee deep in a mess of our own making?

AG: Yes.

DL: What happened?

AG: There was flawed decision making. Now, there are no good options and we have to find the "least bad option" to get the troops home quickly (this got major applause). Even those of us who opposed the war initially share in the obligation to help think through a process to not make it worse ot to increase the odds of anarchy or civil war.

DL: And now we are asked to be patient with the trouble that we caused.

AG: There are now factions fighting each other, and we are both in the middle of it and a magnet for it. However, there are also areas that could descend into a total bloodbath if we pull out without thinking.

DL: What about the WMD that we were told was there?

AG: Well, we know that Saddam was a bad guy - I supported the first Gulf War, but he had nothing to do with terrorism and nothing to do with 9/11.

DL: Well, prolonging this war is not a road to stability.

AG: I agree, but we can't make the moral mistake of pulling out without thinking and making things worse. We need a fresh team in there, not the ones who got us in there. (he mentioned Rumsfeld here, and got lots of applause)


Jane Harmon's staff posting at daily Kos:

Senior officials must be held accountable for massive policy and management failures -- starting with firing Donald Rumsfeld, the chief architect of the post-war policy failures. Rumsfeld ignored the advice of senior military advisors, ignored the careful recommendations of those who understood nation-building, and ignored those horrified by a prison situation careening out of control. And he prides himself even now on refusing to change a failed policy.

Since I returned from my third trip to Iraq last September, I have been calling on the Administration to develop an exit strategy, and I believe it is now time to begin the phased, strategic redeployment of U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq on a schedule designed by military commanders.

I'm not for an immediate withdrawal (neither is Murtha), but redeployment does make sense, if it is judiciously done.

I'm not anti-war as much as anti-this-war. The question is still finding common ground.

As for occupation vs war, depends on the war.

Americans mind wars, but will support them if the objective is reasonably clear, especially to repel aggressors who threaten us or close allies. What people seem not to support is wars that drag on with no identifiable end in sight, that reduce us to becoming like the enemy we are fighting, and where our purpose is less clear.

In WWII first our allies, and then we, were attacked. The war lasted 3 1/2 years (for us), at great cost, but my impression is that it was almost universally supported. In Korea we were responding to an invasion of our ally (S Korea) by North Korea. Still, things went bad when we tried to ivade N. Korea and the Chinese retaliated, and a truce came after 3 years. In Vietnam, another cold-war episode, we were propping up what we perceived as an ally in S. Vietnam, even though they hadn't (at that point) been invaded. But it was also a civil war, and dragged on for 10 years, with the public becoming increasingly opposed.

Iraq was explicitly sold as retaliation for invasion (the bogus al Qaeda-Saddam connection) and preemption of a (bogus) threat, and the promise was that it would take "months, not weeks." But certainly not years. People will support a post-war occupation like Japan or Germany if they supported the war. Iraq is really something unique (probably the Philippines is the closest) and it is outside the line of what people will support. If it were not for the Bushbot mentality, the conservatives would have defaulted to their isolationist position and no one would support this war but the profiteers.

Um, if these results are true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, why are the blogs going crazy trying to come up with a "narrative" (this season's "paradigm")?

To coin a phrase, "It's the war, stupid."

Right.

"President Bush thinks we should stay in Iraq forever, as far as the eye can see. He's said it himself. He says, 'Getting out of Iraq is up to presidents who come after me.' I don't agree. That's too long. I don't know if we'll be able to get our troops out of Iraq in 6 months or even a year. But I want to start working on getting them home as soon as I get into office. And staying in Iraq for at least three more years, like President Bush wants, is too long.

My opponent is with President Bush on this. More of a blank check. I disagree.

We've got too many challenges around the world to keep burning through money and our men and women in uniform just because President Bush can't admit that his policies aren't working."

Who said that?

Josh Marshall. Hopefully (more) real congressional candidates will follow.

vachon

that's one reason i posted this.

Saying Americans supported the invasion initially is a bit misleading. I don't have access to the numbers, but my clear recollection of the run-up to the war was that support was always relatively weak -- unconditional support was definitely under 50%, and the only way polls could push it over was by adding all sorts of qualifiers (like, limiting casualties under 100, and time invested to well under a year). This -- an early illustration of Rove's 50%+1 strategy -- seemed adequate when things went so well at first (as shown by the poll spike in April '03), but was obviously unsuited to any sustained effort. The public, in essence, have been true to their word: they said they wouldn't support the war if it were more costly that Grenada or Desert Storm, and they've stuck to that.

The only real effect of the pro-Bush blitz in the last ten days has been to make these numbers on Iraq look a bit better -- a month ago, there wasn't a down-the-middle split on "was it worth it?": the divide was more like 60-40, and could easily slip back there as we ease away from the brief period of better news -- or, as Dem says, go further south as the possibility of a decent outcome becomes harder to imagine.

Isn't it odd that the war is far and away the most important issue to the public, but if we accept for the purpose of argument that Lieberman is being primaried solely on the war (a narrative some are trying to push), that's somehow supposed to be wrong?

It's hard to overcome the problem that certain opinions on the war are considered less "mature" by the punditocracy than others. Staying the course is painful, but it's the manly thing to do; reminds you of the "pain caucus" where one demonstrates one's seriousness as a legislator by reluctantly agreeing to inflict pain on others. But saying the war is a mess and we need to find a way out, well, that's the way kiddies think.

One reason issues invariably play out this way is that there are plenty of public figures willing to stand up for extreme right positions, which automatically makes them "mainstream" even when they're not. But on the Democratic side, public figures are typically afraid to take a strong stand, which means the 1 or 2 that do can be effectively marginalized. This is the world in which a guy like Murtha ends up portrayed as some kind of radical anti-war hippie.

The Republicans have the advantage of a leader to rally around, even though their leader sucks at pretty much everything. It's not that elected Republicans have more political courage than elected Democrats, it's just that Republicans have the convenient shortcut of backing whatever the President's plan supposedly is. The Democrats have no equivalent figure, which means they end up floundering around trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

I like to think there is a political reward waiting for whoever takes a strong lead on Iraq and convinces others to follow; but the state of politics in this country being what it is, I'm afraid that reward might not materialize until the next life.

It seems to me that the effective withdrawal “narrative” from Democrats revolves around a negotiated timetable with the Iraqi government. I mean, we are supposed to be there at their behest. So, if it is approved by Maliki, he gets credit for sending the occupyers home and there’s no “cut-and-run” by Democrats.

Dem from CT
Bravo, excellent analysis. You're exactly right -- Americans hate to lose. Rove's been painting the Dems as losers for seven years now and it's worked like a charm. And here's how "Ju-jitsu" Karl is going to turn Bush's defeat in Iraq to political advantage: it won't be the Republicans who lost in Iraq, THEY (and all the "good" Americans) wanted to stay and fight. It was those pussy loser commie appeaser coward Democrats that "cut and run" and lost Iraq!

And you know what? America will swallow it hook, line and sinker because the Democrats are apparently incapable of defending themselves effectively. SO HOW THE HELL CAN THEY DEFEND AMERICA?

I'm a lifelong Democrat who's never voted Republican, ever. But I despair of a party that doesn't have leadership capable of outwitting a morally bankrupt pig like Rove.

Immediate withdrawl with massive reparations paid to most Iraqi factions, would be my policy.

Realistically, it is likely that the Bush administration, and even a Democratic administration, will keep a large number of US troops in Iraq for years. I think Congress, whether dominated by Repubs or Dems, will support this.
In other words, the Bushies and neo-cons are likely to get most of what they want. They will have permanent bases in Iraq (we're currently constructing huge bases) which create a power base in the Arab Middle East, and a "cooperative" Iraqi government. When Bushies talk about "we'll stand down as Iraqis stand up", they're not talking about real withdrawal. I think we'll see a big media display of Iraqi government taking control and many US forces coming home, just in time for an election, but Bushies have already said we will have 50,000 troops there. I don't see Democrats changing the policy in a truly meaningful way. (Maybe I'm just having a bad day.) I'll continue to work for liberal Dems, but I don't see any great change in American imperialism on the horizon.

Dear DeanOR: Don't QUITE despair. The proposed long-range occupation of Iraq will collapse very quickly once troops begin withdrawing. On our side, what soldier's going to want to die in a war that's supposedly over?
Meanwhile, victory in the Iraq civil war will go to whatever faction gets the credit for kicking us out, credit that will go, it seems, to whichever faction uses the most violence to make us leave.
An ancient military maxim: It is in retreat that an army is most exposed to disabling losses.
Don't think of those structures in Iraq as "permanent American bases." They're holding pens for Americans who'll be hostages to Iraqi fortune.

Read an analysis on the apparent inability of Democrats to establish a consensus position on Iraq and what impact it may have on the November midterm elections...here:

www.thoughttheater.com

I actually believe it is smart politics NOT to have a consensus Dem position on future policy. It's Bush's War -- it is a Republican led house and senate. The only responsibility of an opposition in this situation is to call attention to the policy failures, and to make the case for alternatives, with the emphasis on the plural notion of other choices. And the opposition to current policy needs to be flexible, afterall right now our objective is simply to get control of one or both houses, and thus the ability to hold real hearings and ask the hard questions. Done right, that can lay the groundwork for 2008.

Glad the Al Gore material was included above. What really appeals to me right now is a 2008 candidacy on the part of someone who is by no means a beginning student of all this, but also someone who did not vote on it in 2002 and subsequently. Gore made his objections known but he did not join a campaign, and thus he could, I would argue, be positioned to promise alternatives.

In the last couple of days I have been mulling a ticket -- Gore and Wes Clark, with Clark's special mission being to oversee undoing all the damage done by Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, and to the military by the impossible ops tempo.

I also hope everyone watched tonight's PBS Frontline, "The Dark Side" -- not that too much was new to me, but it was a very strong narrative. Must go to the site where extended interviews apparently are excellent. I assume it will be repeated if you didn't see it tonight.

`Don't think of those structures in Iraq as "permanent American bases." They're holding pens for Americans who'll be hostages to Iraqi fortune.'

Perhaps. But very well equipped holding pens. One of the two bases that reporters have been able to visit had room for 150 or so helicopters, most of which, IIRC the story I read, were gunships. I assume that at least one of the others will be a major fighter jet base. There will be, no doubt, a broad cleared area around the bases, and ample sensors to make it very difficult for forces without any air cover to even lob an rpg in, much less launch any effective attack. The ``government'' of Iraq will under incredible pressure not to try to tell the U.S. to go home. (And the bases will be stocked up with enough hardware to consitute a very serious implicit military threat.) Only if all the militias were to start armed action against the U.S. could the Iraqis have any hope of dislodging the U.S. military. As matters stand the Peshmurga will not join such an effort, and the Shi'a militias probably will not either unless the U.S. attacks Iran. [Ironically, part of the point of those bases is to create pressure on Iran from both east (Bagram) and west (Iraq).]

As for the ``broader aims'' mentioned, what broader aims???? The primary aim of the attack on Iraq was to secure effective control of 60% of the world's proven reserves of oil. Period. The rest of it is just bullshit for public consumption....

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