Thursday, October 14, 2004

Ignatieff in NYRB

Michael Ignatieff has a great piece in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. In it he assesses the challenges in Iraq that John Kerry would face if he wins in November:

As the news from Iraq worsens, Kerry may be tempted to promise an exit from the quagmire and quietly jettison his commitments to a democratically elected government in Iraq. Yet holding firm on his intention to sustain an electoral process is vital. Those who opposed the war have good reasons to feel vindicated by the horrible turn of events in Iraq. Their problem is that if America abandons its commitment to helping Iraqis fight for a democratic outcome, through the end of 2005 and into 2006, this betrayal will transform the occupation's many failures into an unforgivable crime.

That seems exactly right. The question is whether Kerry is willing to run the political risk of a long occupation in order to do what's right in Iraq. The debates gave me more confidence that he is, but I'm still not 100% sold.


Anonymous said...

I think whether Kerry will be willing stay in Iraq long term will depend on what the situation on the ground is after he's taken office and had a chance to evaluate things. Which is why I get so irritated with the media acting as though he owes us a specific "plan" right now, today. Only an arrogant, reckless fool would fall into that trap, since he has no idea what things will look like over there come January.

My personal belief is that if he thinks there is any way to salvage it at an acceptable cost in lives and $$, he will do it, because he knows that it is important in terms of regional stability, and restoring America's honor in the world. But I also don't think that if the generals tell him it's going to take 1,000,000 pairs of boots on the ground and 20 years, he'll respond by telling them to crank up the draft machine and get things rollin'. He saw firsthand a war that the people in charge thought was unwinnable years before he ever got there, and I think if he is presented with the information that Iraq has been bungled too badly to be salvaged, he will tell us that, pull the troops out and let the Iraquis have their civil war.

MWS said...

What reason is there to think that Bush would be more likely to "stay the course?" Granted, he would be a lame duck with nothing personally to lose, but, I suspect, if 2008 approaches and there are still substantial numbers of US troops in Iraq, the GOP will put heavy pressure on the Administration to declare victory and get the hell out before the next election.

I largely agree with Anonymous; what Kerry ultimately does will depend on what the facts are on the ground. I agree that he should not cut and run, since "we broke it and now we have to fix it." I suspect that, over the long run, Kerry would pull down troops to make the American presence less overbearing, but he simply could not abandon Iraq. But, yes, there has to be some limit to our involvement or it will become Viet Nam. Kerry has no real plan for Iraq because it's such a mess, what kind of plan could he have?

Anonymous said...

I sure as hell hope "restoring America's honor in the world" isn't the goal in Iraq. We know where that kind of thinking gets us.

Anonymous said...

Kerry will bug out, just like he did in Vietnam. And, just like the Democrats caused in SE Asia by abandoning the S. Vietnamese, the result will be a bloodbath. I guess as long as you don't see it on NPR or CBS, it isn't real.

Saying "Kerry will decide based on the facts on the ground" is just another way of saying "we will let terrorists and infiltrators decide our course of action". A sure recipe for defeat in any venture, particularly war.

Also, much of the fighting is intended to affect our election. I wager that if Bush wins, the intensity of the fighting will drop dramatically. And if Kerry wins, the fighting will intensify along with increased acts of barbarism (oops, I meant to say culturally appropriate resistance). Why? Because Kerry and the Democrat Left will always run from conflict and the Syrians, Iranians & muslim fanatics know this.

Sven said...

Yeah, Kerry "bugged out" after being wounded three times. Pussy. And silly me, I thought Nixon was a Republican.

If you want to know what happens when a war is fought regardless of the "facts on the ground," pick up a copy of the Pentagon Papers. Or, for a shortcut, read Hannah Arendt's Lying in Politics Reflections on The Pentagon Papers, which could just as easily apply to Iraq:

"[N]early all decisions in this disastrous enterprise were made in full cognizance of the fact that they probably could not be carried out: hence goals had constantly to be shifted. There are first the publicly proclaimed objectives - 'seeing that the people of South Vietnam are permitted to determine their future' or 'assisting the country to win their contest against the Communist conspiracy' or the containment of China and the avoidance of the domino effect or the protection of America's reputation 'as a counter-subversive guarantor...'

"From 1965 on, the notion of a clear-cut victory receded into the background and the objective became 'to convince the enemy that he could not win.'"

Anonymous said...

Making a grain of rice which barely required a bandaid serve as a reason for a purple heart, then using that "third" purple heart a reason to exit 'Nam...that was bugging out. And an opportunity for Kerry to lie to Congress and provide help to N. Vietnamese torturers of our POW's.

Nixon won the war, even though N. Vietnam was not destroyed. Destroying N. Vietnam was not the goal--clearly a mistake and a great example of changing goals depending upon the situation on the ground. Congressional Democrats cut the legs out from under S. Vietnam when aid was effectively ended via Congressional fiat. Voila--death and defeat for US ally, cheers from the Left.