Monday, November 20, 2006

Mistaken views of Iraq

Family friend and loyal reader/commenter "JohnBai3030" wrote a long comment in response to my "Up and Out" of Iraq strategy. (Astute TPV readers will note the news today that the Baker Commission is about to recommend "Go Long," "Go Deep," or "Get Out" -- this war is all about pithy catchphrases!) Here's JohnBai3030, in his own words:

The "mission" in Iraq (as far as our publicly stated goal - and not the covert goal of securing Iraq's vast oil reserves for ourselves) has been accomplished. Saddam has been arrested and is standing trial. The dictator has been overthrown. At this point, there is nothing wrong with leaving. If Iraq can't sort itself out and develop an independent government that looks after the affairs of Iraqis and takes Iraqi values to heart... then maybe the UN should get involved. Our continued presence only ensures that Iraq will NOT have a strong independent government that looks after the best interests of Iraqi citizens. And in the meantime, any Iraqi civilians that are worth a damn (the doctors and social workers and such) are fleeing the country because it's a hellhole occupied by an unfriendly military. Things probably have to get worse before they get better... but worse for whom... and better for whom? If we send more troops, things get worse for us, and we may get more oil out of the deal. If we withdraw, things will get temporarily worse for Iraq, but at least then they'll have a shot at a autonomous, respectable nation... rather than a dysfunctional puppet government that we might set up. (See the US's long history of dysfunctional puppet governments for clarification of what I mean.)

At the risk of alienating my most loyal reader, every single argument advanced in this paragraph is wrong. Let's break it down, piece by piece:

1. There was no "covert" motive of obtaining Iraqi oil fields. The neoconservatives have been nakedly transparent about their motivations, and getting oil isn't one of them. There is also the troubling fact that the amount we have spent on the Iraq War thus far could have paid for Iraqi oil, at maximum daily production, for approximately 30 years.

2. The mission has not been accomplished, despite President Bush's premature adventures on the aircraft carrier. The mission was not, "Invade Iraq, remove Saddam, then pull out and watch what happens and hope for the best." It would make no sense to remove Saddam, only to have his replacement be an equal or greater threat to American interests. There was always a recognition that this was not a simple undertaking -- recall Colin Powell's "Pottery Barn" quote, "you break it, you bought it" -- as the unheeded warning to the Bush Administration about the follies of invading without a coherent reconstruction plan. If only Bush had listened.

3. Say what you will about the Iraqi government, but it is not a puppet government. It is, in fact, one of three democratic states in the region (in addition to Afghanistan and Turkey). To be sure, the government wants us to stay in Iraq, but that is not evidence of "puppet" status but rather, evidence that there is real fear in Iraq that wholesale civil war and slaughter will result if we leave. Of course, it would be wonderful if the UN would step in and provide security forces, but the UN never gets involved in internal civil wars -- and it's certainly not going to get involved in Iraq.

There is a troubling notion floating around out there that the Democratic victory was a vote for withdrawal from Iraq. It was not. Many people, myself included, voted Democratic because of the frustration over the lack of progress in Iraq and the apparent blindness of the Administration to the growing problems there. But if we withdraw now, and civil war ensues, and we create the world's most violent haven for terrorists, the consequences will be catastrphic -- for Iraqis, for Americans, for the world. The Democratic Party will destroy itself if it thinks such an outcome is palatable.

(JohnBai3030, in the interest of fairness, I will happily post any reply on the main blog.)


Blogger Johnbai3030 said...

No need to post any rebuttal on the main blog page. I'm just flattered that you posted my argument. Now... as to why your response is entirely wrong ;) ...

As for your first argument, that we've already spent more than we can recoup in oil: It's not about America's overall gain or debit. It's about who started out with the money and who wound up with the money. Yes we've spent ridiculous amounts of tax money on the war, but who has profiteered from that expenditure? Has Haliburton lost any money? No. It's similar to the Medicare Part D legislation. They found a compelling reason (meds are too expensive) to funnel billions from the Federal tax coffers directly to the vaults of the pharmaceutical companies.

If the war results in billions going from Federal tax income and being redistributed to war profiteering companies like Haliburton (who stand to make even greater profits if they can eventually build and maintain oil wells and refineries in Iraq)then the war is a success in the corporate-influenced, greed-driven Neocon world. It doesn't matter that America loses financially in the end, or that hundreds of thousands of human beings died to achieve those ends... all that matters is that the corporations that financed GW's campaign make out like bandits.

It sounds like you actually buy the party line that we are building a safer world and spreading democracy because it's the right thing to do... that we we're actually concerned about those Kurds getting gassed, or about those Kuwaitis that got annexed. If there's anything moral or highminded about our use of the military, why the fuck have we done nothing to stop various genocides in Africa? Why the fuck did we sell Iraq the WMD's it needed to gas Kurds or invade Kuwait? Why do Hollywood celebrities care more about Darfur than our Executive department?

But maybe I've missed your point. You say that the neocons are nakedly transparent about their motives... what exactly are they? To prevent safe havens for terrorists? WTF?! Every freakin' Muslim country in the world is becoming a safe haven since we began this unprovoked war. Pakistan was supposedly providing shelter for Osama. If anything, we are galvanizing a Muslim world (which was once ineffectual and fractured) with a unified hatred of our ugly oppressing asses. Polls show that something like 80% of Iraqis want us out of their country. What is the history and success rate of the US propping up governments in decimated or third world countries?

I will concede this:
I'm very unused to voting for winning candidates. I know why I actually bothered to vote in this election, but you probably have your finger more on the pulse of the general public. I feel very strongly that the war should end now. But it's an easy trap to assume that everyone voted for the same reason you did. Perhaps the American public does want to see an escalation in the number of troops sent to Iraq. I don't know.

I think it would be a terrible mistake, and would be the next step toward creating a mini-Viet Nam situation. And I'm sure they've already done a cost-analysis and figured out if that's ultimately profitable or not.

11:24 AM  

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