I was struck by the absolute tone from MyDD’s Matt Stoller regarding whether the next President should completely withdraw troops from Iraq, or leave enough for “peacekeeping” and genocide prevention, insofar as either are actually possible. In particular, I was surprised to see him treating Obama advisor Samantha Power like just another political shill. I have to imagine Power knows more about genocide than just about any other presidential campaign advisor in either party — in fact, you might say she wrote the book. And indeed, she warns that a US-enabled genocide may well result from a withdrawal of forces. (Thanks to Keller for first pointing this out.)
I give the MyDD guys big-time credit for correctly insisting that opposition to the Iraq War would swing the 2006 election, and that Democrats should not bother to get pulled into a discussion of what they would do differently. As the majority party in a divided government, their job is still to oppose the President, and force him to negotiate. (The President hasn’t gotten the memo, of course.) Congress just doesn’t have much in the way of making military policy, except the blunt instrument of the purse, which they’re now threatening to use.
But 2008 presidential candidates are a different story. I absolutely cannot get with Stoller when he says this:
Anyway, I’m more concerned about the politics than the policy, because I see this more as an issue of political honesty than genuine military strategy.
I think that comment shows the limits of MyDD’s laser-beam focus on electioneering. It would seem we’re unlikely to get the troops out of Iraq before the end of this administration. That means it’s going to be up to the next President to do so, and it’s entirely proper and necessary for them to put out workable, realistic and ethical plans for withdrawal. In this case, “political honesty” is “genuine military strategy.”
Should the continuation and enlargement of Iraqi genocide be a consideration for those who offer withdrawal plans? I have to ask, how could it not? Do we believe Colin Powell’s dictum that “You break it, you bought it”? Do we just abandon Iraq to the forces of torture and terrorism?
Put it this way: I supported US action in Kosovo against continuing Serb genocidal aggression. Would I not support US action against Sunni-Shiite genocide — even though we are largely responsible for uncorking this particularly brutal genie?
As for whether a continuing US force within Iraq would actually be a help or a hindrance, I don’t really know. I lean toward thinking that the US presence inflames hostility more than anything else, but one also hears of people in Baghdad who are grateful for the protection of US forces — however short-term and ineffective that has turned out to be. We don’t know the counter-factual: What will things be like without our present forces? Better? Worse? Who knows?
Look, I’m glad someone of Bill Richardson’s expertise and profile suggests that we’ve got to get completely out of Iraq. I’d prefer to believe that’s true. But I think we’ve got to consider our responsibilities to try to heal that country, one way or another, by diplomacy, force, or some combination. And I’m glad Obama seems to take that responsibility seriously.*
*By seriously, I mean seriously, and not “seriously”; the quotes are reserved for the mainstream punditry’s equivalence of knee-jerk hawkishness with foreign-policy gravitas. cf. Atrios.