Sunday, April 06, 2008

Staying in Iraq Forever

On KCRW's 'To the Point' last week, they did a show on the Basra battle and Iraq's place in the presidential elections. One of the guests was Shawn Brimley, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. According to the Wikipedia entry on them, this think tank advocates for "pragmatic" and "principled" national security policies.

What kind of "principled" and "pragmatic" policies did he advocate for in regards to Iraq? Well he said this at about the 20 minute mark-
"The Bush administration and Senator McCain have endorsed a strategy which I would define as 'unconditional engagement' in Iraq. It's essentially a passive approach...

...But I do think people on the other side of the aisle, they're too many on the other side of the aisle who endorse a policy of what I call 'unconditional disengagement', which means we're coming out, it doesn't matter what the Iraqis do or don't do, it's time for our troops to come home. And I think what you're going to see, quite frankly, from the next Commander-in-Chief-- Republican or Democrat, largely on the Democratic side-- is you're going to see a policy of 'conditional engagement'. You know, we will offer to stay to help the Iraqi people consolidate their government, but we'll only do so, we'll make that support conditional on actual political accommodation."

I've always wondered what the qualifications are to be employed by these think tanks, because these people always seem like idiots. Someone should tell Mr. Brimley that his brilliant new idea of 'conditional engagement' was already proposed and tried... it was called "the surge".

After the 2006 elections, the calls for withdrawals were growing louder from all quarters. Desperate to find a way to justify keeping the war going for the remainder of his presidency, ol' Bushie proposed his 'new way forward'. In his January 2007 speech officially announcing the surge, he said "I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended." To prove this, the administration said it would be holding the Iraqi government to a series of benchmarks it would have to meet over the course of the year. In short... "conditional engagement".

When it became clear, of course, that none of those benchmarks would be met, the administration and their supporters began the process of redefining victory and spinning away the benchmarks. But that's a separate issue.

My point here is that the super-serious grownups who control our political dialogue will always find an excuse to insist that we can't withdraw from Iraq. Ever. Even if they have to ignore that their next brilliance plan for this war is the exact same thing we just tried and failed at (but they gave it a new name!). Maybe it's Vietnam Syndrome, maybe it's ego, maybe just general stupidity, but they just can't accept the fact that we have to leave at some point.

Victory/withdrawal remains, as always, just over the horizon. Just one hundred more shot, this time they mean it.

[UPDATE: See my response at LJDemocrats for a clarification of what I am saying here.]

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