Democrats had better have a plan for Iraq.
No one could be happier than I at the current state of political affairs. Seriously. I've been depressed about the ridiculous silliness of our nation's political landscape almost since Bush took office. We have had to tolerate so much ineptitude. In no particular order here are just a few gems of Presidential natiocide, deep international goodwill destroyed; budget surpluses as far as the naked eye could see, gone replaced by the largest deficit in history; public education, wrecked; huge tax cuts to the wealthiest 1 %; disregard and contempt for reasoned policy on scientific issues, including but not limited to, global climate change, conservation of biodiversity, stem-cell research; erosion of our freedoms; and of course the most irrational, needless, criminal war in our nation's history (and that is saying something!).
With my last point I would hope it terribly obvious that I am not referring to the necessary war we should have committed to, whole-heartedly, in Afghanistan, but the military mis-adventure we are currently glued to in Iraq. I will not, in this post attempt to chronicle the long, tortuous series of errors, political thinking, and just plain laziness that has led us into what was so correctly identified as "a potential quagmire." That has been done to splendid, depressing effect in books like, Assassin's Gate, and Fiasco to name just two of the best. I will simply say that for reasons deemed politically expedient, and morally murky our country's foreign policy has created an almost intractable human rights crisis, managed to foment civil war, and sewn distrust in our leaders at home. While U.S. casualties are not great in number (though understandably too great for so misguided a conflict) the same can not be said of Iraqi casualties which range up in the hundreds of thousands. To top it all off, U.S. troop commitment in Iraq has prevented, and perhaps ruined, any chance of solving the problems of Afghanistan. The Taliban and Al Queda find the motivation of new recruits from the injustice of the war in Iraq, while also finding freedom to regroup in Afghanistan. Iraq may now indeed be a part of the "war on terror" but it wasn't always so, and we have only ourselves and Bush policies to thank for it.
This is all past. Democrats now have to come up with a strategy to get the U.S. out of Iraq or make intelligent, far-sighted policy changes in the prosecution of our "war on terror." This is no easy problem and may in fact be a boon to our much confused commander in chief as it really absolves him of having to do the work he so handily created. For Democrats it seems, accolades or blame await.
To me, a simple withdrawal policy may not be the most prudent course. While it seems the majority of Americans want to bring our troops home immediately this will likely cause even greater strife in Iraq. This may not affect Americans in the short term, but it will have immediate effects on Iraqi citizens whose expectations of being randomly murdered are already terribly high. It is likely that the current civil war in Iraq will become much worse if the U.S. withdraws haphazardly without helping to stabilize some government.
In the next few weeks it will be our task to ask some tough questions. While bearing in mind something Colin Powell said in one of his more statesmanly moments, "If you break it, you own it." What do we owe the people of Iraq? Certainly more than the suffering our foreign policy has inflicted on them. It is quite justifiable to say we have not done well by the people of Iraq in nearly twenty years. In the first gulf war we encouraged a rebellion and then did nothing when Saddam Hussein crushed it and began exterminating them. Now we have ignited a civil war.
What is needed in Iraq is a plan that quickly gives them the tools to begin imposing order with a system of governance they can all agree on. This would allow us to rapidly pull troops out and redeploy them in more appropriate places like Afghanistan where we might actually begin the work of exterminating the networks, and financial backbone of the organization that actually did attack us on September 11, 2001. We need to call on the international community to supply peace keeping troops in all of Iraq's hot spots. (Curtailed resources like Japan and Germany want to help, but are hobbled by old, perhaps now unnecessary, law. Simple, stringent over-sight should be all that is necessary to curtail worry about past transgressions.) Utilizing the international community will free up U.S. troops to for more dynamic military applications against insurgents as well allowing our military resources to be redeployed to Afghanistan.
It is also possible that the situation is like the one Nixon faced with Vietnam. His policy had the goal of bringing our troops home but with honor. It took him awhile to realize that was an impossible goal. Our current crisis in the middle-east may be one of a similar nature. In any event our national dialogue on the subject must be free from typical two party posturing, and must root itself in the less politically expedient realms of reason, evidence, and honest debate.