Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Nation unbuilding

George Bush has a plan to end the war in Iraq.

Leave it to the next guy.

Our troops are going to be there for years to come, he insists.

He talks as if the next President will have an easy time of it, bringing the troops home, because by then Iraq will be a stable, flourishing, even prospering democracy, and our continued presence will an unnecessary extravagance.

Also the coming economic boom will have wiped out the deficit here at home, the earth will have cured itself of global warming, and New Orleans will have risen from the muck cleaner, brighter, richer, and whiter than ever, but with better gumbo and hotter jazz.

Bush probably believes it will all come to pass thus.

There are plenty of Congressmen, Senators, think tankers, pundits, journalists, bloggers, and regular citizens who believe it along with him, more who talk as if they believe it, because they need to believe it. To admit the truth would cost them their jobs or, worse, injure their vanity and self-regard.

There are plenty who are willing to admit the war has been a botched job, some who'll even admit it was a mistake from the start, but nevertheless insist there's nothing we can do but more of the same, except maybe with more intensity and forethought---they mean that we need to kill more Iraqis. They call them insurgents as a way to avoid calling them Iraqis and thinking of them as people. But that's basically their plan. Kill as many as we can until the rest get scared or tired or run out of explosives. They call killing them bringing stability to Iraq.

All the American soldiers and Marines and all the Iraqi innocents who die in the process are the price of freedom, and it's a small price to pay, so buck up and be proud. Support the live troops and ignore the dead ones.

That's the "opitmist's" argument.

More and more we're hearing the "realist's" argument. Yes, it's a mess, the realist says, and probably there's not much that can be done, but we have to try. It's our obligation. Our nation's honor is at stake. We broke it, it's up to us to fix it.

I believed this myself, for a little while. But that's because I didn't yet know the extent to which Iraq had been broken. If Iraq was a priceless vase that the Bush Leaguers dropped, then they also stomped all over the pieces in heavy boots and ground them to powder while they were scrambling around looking for the glue.

Ok, maybe it can never be fixed, other realists say, but if we pull out now it will only embolden our enemies. We don't want our friends or enemies thinking we don't honor our committments. We can't appear weak.

Actually, what we've "accomplished" in Iraq should scare the bejeezus out of enemies like Iran and North Korea. Look at how much havoc we caused while only half-trying. Mess with us, and this is what we can do to you---destroy your army, wipe out your infrastructure, behead your government, kill thousands of your citizens, and leave what remains to the mercy of the rats and the bandits and the germs.

I'm hardly advocating that as our negotiating posture with either Iran or North Korea, but that is the ultimate threat, even if we never say it out loud.

What we've "accomplished" ought to serve as a warning to our enemies...and to ourselves that this is why diplomatic solutions are always preferable.

But back to arguments that we need to stay the course.

I'm sorry that I gave into the temptation to be a smart aleck in my post the other day, Peace with honor. I don't really believe that the Boomers belong to the Worst Generation Ever or that Gen X is the most useless cohort to come along. Generations don't do anything. They aren't even are anything, except useful measurement tools for actuaries, marketers, and census takers.

I was just being a wiseguy to get a rise out of people, and I did. But I took the focus off my real point, which wasn't that the Boomers are a blot on the landscape or that Gen Xers mere chaff with no wheat.

My point was and is that nobody who was alive and cognizant then should be writing about Iraq as if they'd never heard of Vietnam or learned none of its lessons.

I'm talking about Liberal hawks and the truly realistic Republicans.

The neocons and Right Wingers didn't learn any lessons from Vietnam because they didn't want to. They learned the lessons of Rambo.

So I undermined my own point. Fortunately, Tom Watson's around to make it for me and then some:

On this anniversary, some would have us waive the grand Bush error rather than look back to mistakes and failure and wasted blood. Look forward, they urge. It's our only course. [This is the favored line of the growing number of Republicans who have abandoned the President they worked so feverishly to elect]. Some want us to fight our way out - but which way, and with whom? John McCain says he's moderate Presidential material, but he ought to channel LBJ if he thinks Americans can stand many more thousands of lives and many more billions of dollars in a clearly lost cause. We don't have three, five, ten or twenty years of bleeding left in our all-volunteer military - or another trillion in our indebted, outsourced economy, either.

Go read Tom's post Mister, I Ain't a Boy. And be sure to follow the links at the end of the post to Gilliard, Wolcott, and especially to Juan Cole.


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