Exit strategies and men of straw

From Daniel Benjamin, former NSC staffer, in the LA Times on Nov. 24, a good counter to those who claim that leaving now (or soon) would mean a jihadi base in Iraq.

One key passage:

The suggestion that a jihadist takeover in Iraq would follow a U.S. withdrawal verges on preposterous. It is the latest in a parade of straw men dispatched to scare up support for wrongheaded and failed policies.

With this post, I am creating a new sub-category, exiting Iraq (under US foreign policy) to assemble various discussions of how to think about extricating ourselves from this mess. Posts specifically on Iraq’s elections will continue to be under VOTES–>Iraq (or the Iraq subdomain).

The subtext here is that I do no believe support for Iraqi democracy and support for an exit of US forces are contradicatory. In fact, the former depends on the latter.

0 thoughts on “Exit strategies and men of straw

  1. Sadly, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon have joined the defeatists saying that our strategy in the War on Terror has created a new haven for terrorism in Iraq and escalates the potential for Islamic violence against Europe and the United States.

    As I posted in “Losing The War“, Benjamin and Simon seem to have forgotten that in their 2002 book, “The Age of Sacred Terror,” they explain that the roots of Islamic extremism which spawns evildoers like Osama bin Laden lies in the anger and frustration from all the difficulties under which they live—the poverty, unemployment, oppression. The only way to eliminate the roots of the extremist movements is to give these people hope. To do that requires freedom and democracy.

    The “orderly departure” proposed by Benjamin won’t do anything to change the conditions which spawns and nurtures the evil doers. No, it will only reinforce bin Laden’s belief that if you spill enough American blood we will turn tale an run.

  2. It is hard to dispute what Dan attributes to Benjamin and Simon (2002):

    The only way to eliminate the roots of the extremist movements is to give these people hope. To do that requires freedom and democracy.

    What is at question, however, is whether conquest and occupation are the way to bring that democracy and whether in turn said democracy would bring improvements that are fast and deep enough to “give these people hope.” And an even bigger question is whether the promotion of democracy abroad can piggyback on its subversion at home.

    I personally might have supported the war in Iraq from the start had it been promoted with this specific strategic objective explicitly. To do it right would have required a more complete mobilization, probably including a draft, vastly more forces to secure the countty in the aftermath of the dictator’s overthrow, and a rather significant change in this administation’s fiscal policies to pay for it all. None of this happened–and more to the point, the basic rationale for the war was not the strategic rationale that democracy was a means to solve the underlying roots of extremism. That the administration would not sell the war ex ante on the rationale that is now being used ex post tells me that the administration, or at least the iedological cabal within in, was not serious about this strategic rationale–or perhaps that it knew it was a political nonstarter.

    So instead the administration promoted the war on the pack of lies of WMDs so advanced as to create an imminent threat of the “mushroom cloud” over a US city, thereby exploiting 9/11 to pursue its ideological agenda. Moreover, it propagated the absurd notion that we would be greeted as liberators and thus would need only a light force and not a sustained commitment and mobilization.

    As for the growing opposition to the war, well, you reap what you sow. When people–and here I mean Americans as well as Iraqis–see that the emperor indeed has no clothes, the strategic objective has been lost. You can hardly show the Iraqi and world populations the value of democracy in fostering a better and more secure world when you are so willing to undermine it at home in pursuit of your objectives. If the strategic case was so important, then the only way to make it is to be honest and forthcoming and let democracy mobilize itself for the objecive. If you have to lie and distort your way to a war, don’t cry about “defeatism” when the public finally comes around to recognizing it has been sold a bill of goods.

    As for the democracy on the ground in Iraq, it is hard to see how the entire operation can ever be a success if 82% of the Iraqi public is “strongly opposed” to the presence of US forces.

    Benjamin is no defeatist. He is a realist. He wants to save the goal of building a democracy in Iraq; a goal that falls farther and farther out of reach the more this administration remains committed to its militaristic and imperialistic policies. The goal of building democracy and a better society in Iraq is one I share, as should be clear from the amount of attention I devote in the Iraq subdomain to the electoral process of that country. But this goal requires doing so without a heavy US presence and especially without digging in for a long haul of establishing a permanent US military presence in the country. This US administration is not one to admit mistakes. It has to be pushed. Unfortunately for us all, our only “opposition party” nominated the wrong candidate to push it. But it is not too late. Daniel Benjamin, Congressman Murtha, and others are trying to save the strategic objective from those who have so squandered the opportunity.

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