Skip to main content

Iraq Dialogue, Continued


Answering Dale Franks rebuttal.

Yeah. I'm not a conservative.

I'm sorry, but you are. Simplifying, but along the spectrum you're either liberal, moderate, or conservative. You are neither liberal nor moderate but conservative. I've read Q&O long enough and listened to your podcast occasionally to know you're some kinda libertarian, which is a conservative along the modern political spectrum. Plus, I'm just describing you as you described me and others like me. I personally consider myself in the center-left. I favor markets, but regulated ones. I'm conservative on education and crime. I'm liberal on social policies. But I'm a liberal, though people on the true far left chortle when cons call me or other members of the mainstream Democratic base the farrrrrr left (and the Europeans positively roll in the aisles).

I guess he had to get some little digs in.

That's what I do. Again, I am not a liberal of the last generation. I don't really respect "flower power". My technique is not to do the traditional liberal thing of deferring to a conservative in order to try and bring him around to my way of thinking. I'm going to give as good as I get.

What happened, happened. So, it's simply not productive to re-hash it at this point. All we can do is try to determine what to do from this point on. The past is simply isn't retrievable.

Not playing by those rules. What led up to the war matters because it is used daily by the right to explain away current and future behavior. The shifting justifications for the war are regularly discarded, added on to, or dis-remembered depending on what Constitutional pickle the administration's gotten itself into this week. Simply giving into the conservative drumbeat of the Official History Of The Iraq War gets us nowhere and usually leads to further horrible decision making that is the hallmark of this current leadership team.

And, look, no one would like to retrieve it more than I would. If I knew then that the Hussein regime had no active WMD programs, I wouldn't've approved of going to war, either.

Well, you're in the minority on the right when it comes to this. From the President on down, the right mostly still believes we did the right thing, and some of them even still claim - to this day - that Hussein had WMDs (the "shipped to Syria" article of imagination is now an Accepted Truth). So you may not believe it, and regret going to war, but much of the right vehemently disagrees with you.

We don't get to magnanimously get to absolve Democrats who voted to authorize the use of military force from responsibility because they weren't the one's that gave the actual go order. The whole point of getting Congressional authorization is to share responsibility for it.

The Dems are not absolved. As I wrote on the day of the authorization, the blood is on their hands as well and will remain to be. But Congress voted for the authorization, but one sole human being on the entire planet made the final decision to invade and occupy Iraq. He had the backing of his government, but only one person made that final decision. He lives at 1600 Pennsylavania Ave. That's what the whole job is about. The buck stops there. If Iraq had become a wonderland and they were indeed throwing rose petals at our feet, he would have gotten all the glory as well. So you don't get to have it both ways. Bush doesn't get the glory but shirk the final responsibility. Furthermore, it was his handpicked team that is responsible for the management crimes that have gone on in Iraq. The Dems - stupidly - gave him a free hand, but he was the one who used it.

You seem to know precisely what the Iraqis want. I, on the other hand, freely admit that I have no idea what "the Iraqis" want.

Well, it isn't the French who are shooting at American soldiers in Iraq, is it? It isn't the Germans who hold anti-American marches in Iraq, eh?

But, then, what if the Iraqis vote to have us stay for some period of time? Then what?

Many Iraqis may want us to stay forever, but then a lot of kids never want to leave their parent's homes. It's much better to have Mom and Dad pay the utilities and room and board while you sit on the couch and watch Spongebob. We have to look out for number one. Yes, I want to do what we can for the Iraqis, but not at the expense of our safety.

You seem sure that the Iraqis are just hell-bent on killing each other. And you seem to regard the prospect with some equanimity. I have to wonder why you're comfortable with such an argument. Doesn't it sound awfully close to the kind of condescending comments about "the bloody wogs" that would've been common in the corridors of Whitehall 150 years ago?

This is the most specious argument that comes from the right - that liberals don't somehow support democracy in the middle east out of some sort of racial animus. It's just stupid and insulting. I make my assertions based on the evidence at hand. The Iraqis are clearly tribal in nature - that was the first structure they clinged to after Hussein was removed from power. That is the half of all the violence over there - Sunni on Shia and vice versa, all about whose prophet is divine and whose isn't, etc.

Like the rest of the region it has different values from ours and is not in the mindset of a Western democracy. I may find some of their practices (like stoning women) positively barabaric, but that is their culture. As I said, to walk into that world and expect the Continental Congress to spring up is the kind of fairy tale thinking one does not base the foreign policy of the world's superpower around.

Those on the Left seemed to think nation-building was a fine and noble idea when Bill Clinton was doing it in Haiti, the former Yugoslavia, etc. Now, though...not so much.

I still believe in that, but not in a hot zone like Iraq. Also, the bulk of those interventions were well planned and executed with little to no loss of U.S. lives or damage to our security. Helping out other nations should always be a priority, especially when it will pay dividends in the long run.

I am kind of curious as to why you think that US forces cannot simultaneously deploy to Iraq, and also look for al-Qaeda affiliates. After all, going after Al Qaeda is—considering that doing so would require operating in foreign countries—basically a small unit, special ops deal. It has very little at all to do with Iraq. This is akin to arguing that having US troops stationed at NATO bases in Europe hinders our ability to provide adequate assistance to the Japanese Self-Defense Force. We're perfectly capable of doing both.

Er, because nobody at Ramstein Air Base in Germany is trying to blow us up? In Iraq, we're not simply twiddling our thumbs in a base or going on NATO drills. Our forces in Iraq are being killed to the tune of about 100 a month currently. Furthermore, while those forces are deployed in Iraq and being killed for no good reason, Al Qaeda has had a free hand in areas like the Pakistani border and elsewhere around the world.

So, are you saying that the Al-Anbar example is an irrelevant, one-off quirk? It has no larger implications?

We win something one month, then we lose it another or it goes sideways or it goes to Sadr, etc. I and people on my side (and this seems to include the majority of Americans nowadays, welcome aboard) are tired up to here with "Look!!! We're winning!" game that has been played again and again and again for the last 4+ years. This is the Tinkerbell mindset in action once again, wishing for something to be when it just ain't.

What are the gaping holes in US security?

The continued existence and mobility of Al Qaeda and their associates. Their continued freedom and the growth and decentralized state of that network means that we've got gigantic holes in our security. Not to mention the continual folly of having National Guardsmen being blown up in Iraq and absent come the regular natural and otherwise disasters here on the home front.

Al Qaeda exists in a number of sovereign nations that won't look kindly on us sending in the 4ID to conduct the hunt.

This is what always gets me. The people who advocated the invasion and occupation of Iraq are all of a sudden taken up by the vapors when it comes to killing the people behind 9/11 because of something like a border. We didn't - appropriately - give a hoot about Afghanistan's borders when they were harboring terrorists, did we?

So, if the US military wasn't sending 150,000 guys to Iraq, what, precisely, would those guys be doing that would be more useful?

Most importantly - not getting killed every day, secondly, providing support, etc. to us and our allies in the way that the military always has. The idea that well, they're not doing anything so they should be occupying Iraq is just kind of silly.

Well, I think in the case of Iraq, it's always been clear, even prior to the invasion, what the endgame is supposed to be. It's always been a stable, relatively democratic, unified Iraq, that doesn't constitute a threat to it's neighbors, or to the United States.

And I want to be an NFL quarterback with a mansion, eight-figure salary and three supermodel wives, but that isn't likely to happen either. No matter how hard I wish and pray for it to happen.

We can have an interesting debate about how we got into the invasion in the first place, but it doesn't really help us now.

See above for why it matters and why it's utterly condescending to try and brush past it.

The interesting thing, though, is that you seem to be setting the precondition for stabilization operations as one where US troops won't be killed.

No, I've set the bar that troops shouldn't be killed for no damn reason. The troops that died in Afghanistan died in pursuit of the mass murdering organization that killed thousands of people and was a threat to us and our allies. The people dying in Iraq are dying because the president is obsessed with swinging it around so he doesnt seem "weak". That is never a good excuse for a foreign policy.

I don't mean to be rude here, but I honestly don't know how to parse the meaning of this paragraph. You are literally saying:

1. Iraq is a haven for terrorists.
2. The US Military should hunt terrorists.
3. The best way to hunt for terrorists is to withdraw from Iraq.

Are you sure you meant to formulate the argument this way?

Iraq is a haven terrorists because Americans are in Iraq. It's easy pickings for them to come in and kill us because we're so damn busy building and policing this country while the inhabitants are at war with each other. Granted, part of this comes from the propaganda of calling anyone who is hostile a "terrorist". And I'm guilty of this too. If one were to look into it, you'd probably see things break out to: people resisting the occupation, Sunni militants, Shia militants, criminals, a few foreign fighters, and a few Al Qaeda who see opportunity.

Are you seriously arguing that Pakistan will allow the US military to operate overtly, and in force, inside Pakistan?


Do you, perchance, have a list of countries who will charitably allow the US military to enter their country in force to hunt for terrorists.

As I said before, this is where the right gets really funny and stupid on purpose in order to keep things in their preferred framing of the war on terror. We are at war with Al Qaeda. If a nation is harboring Al Qaeda, well too bad for their border. We did not ask the Taliban government in Afghanistan for permission to come in and get Bin Laden. We gave them fair warning then went in to get them. The idea that in order to stay within the conservative boundaries of this discussion we're all of a sudden unable to penetrate the borders of a nation harboring a clear enemy is practically beyond ludicrous.

Actually, we haven't tried it "the conservative way". The conservative way would have consisted of shooting looters in Baghdad on sight.

Semantic hoop-jumping aside, we've done it the way our current "conservative" government has decided we should do it. This current conservative team is a spectacularly useless assortment, because I noted previously even people I ideologically loathe like Reagan and Bush were never this foolhardy with American lives. This war has been waged spectacularly hideously by a conservative leader. Until the right comes to their senses, Iraq and its execution is in every sense a "conservative" war.

But the thing is, are we really looking for a pony?

By all indications, yes, conservatives still seem to believe us sticking around in Iraq and getting killed will some how magically transmogrify into "Victory!" that sees Iraq echoing U.S.-style democracy.

But wouldn't an Iraqi descent into internecine bloodletting comprise a gaping security hole?

First of all it's already descended. The solution is not a clean one. Either path leads to death for the Iraqi people, and I'm truly saddened by that and I argued for months that we couldn't just leave them in the lurch. But our presence there, four years on, seems to not only be an irritant to their people but it ends up killing Americans too. It's a harsh calculation but in an equation that includes Iraqi deaths and American deaths, I want to minimize and zero out the American deaths.

Iraq doesn't exist in a vacuum. Why should we assume the implosion you foresee would have benign effects on the region as a whole?

Again, please stop shoving words in my mouth. Nobody with any common sense believes things will be benign. But the idea that well, we just stay in Iraq and send home body bags every month and not have our forces available for defense because golly gosh we don't know the unknowns is a) what we've been doing and b) stupid.

Sitting and hoping for this situation to magically heal is not going to make a thing happen, except increase the casualty count and be an irritant in the region. We've screwed the pooch thanks to our leadership's decisions. We can't unscrew the pooch, but we can cut our losses and get back to work. I wish the best to the Iraqis, but not at the expense of America.