Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Republicans lost Iraq.

progressive plan for Iraq and beyond

The Republicans lost Iraq.

The party in power, Republicans hold every branch of government. Starting with the yesterday's planning and continuing with today's insurgency, President Bush and his administration have gone beyond miscalculation. They've lost. The war, for all intents and purposes, is over and the Republicans lost. Not the Democrats. Not America. The Republicans.

I spend a lot of time here taking shots at President Bush – and rightly so – for his waging an unjust war built on lies made on purpose and with a purpose. What would I do, however? How would I construct an exit strategy, a progressive answer to our regressive foreign policy? Here's a start*:

Get out of Iraq – the right way

The key – as Sen. Russ Feingold has said in recent weeks – is setting a date and following through with our departure. Call a cease-fire if you'd like. But set a date; tell the Iraqis that the responsibility of developing as a nation will soon fall on their shoulders, giving them more self-determination. What's more, think of the terrible toll this war has taken at home. We've lost nearly 2,000 Americans with countless soldiers returning home with serious physical or mental disabilities. Families have been torn apart. Businesses have been hurt. Our homeland has been left unsafe, unguarded. Let's get our young men and women home and focus on building a better, stronger America.

Handing it over

Before we leave, we must do everything we can to ensure that the transition will go well. We make a mistake by saying "get out" and nothing more. While a justified sentiment, its sounds a lot like the simplistic, black-and-white rhetoric we hear from the right. It's more than that. We need to really train Iraqi forces, not just keep talking about it. Why did we disband the Iraqi army when we could have used the majority of them to protect their homeland? Sure, we would have to purge them of pro-Saddam Hussein soldiers, but we would still be left with a strong force, one that we could upgrade with some new insurgency training.

An end to occupation

As far as our presence goes, that's just it: The problem is our presence. A multinational force would still be better than just us. Our presence alone guarantees a continued insurgency. We need to transition from our presence to that of a multinational force charged with peacekeeping and helping the Iraqis get back on their feet. Will others help? It's time we ask, because an unsafe region is just as dangerous to other nations as it is to us. But end the U.S.-led occupation.

Supporting a better tomorrow

Getting out and training Iraqis to take control alone won't cut it; we've got a moral obligation to help. It's time we take President Bush at his word about a Democratic and stable Iraq. Of course, he was lying through his teeth when he said that, but let's act like he wasn't. I'm not saying let's toe the line like Republicans; I'm saying we screwed things up there, it would be completely immoral for us to just leave and give Iraq the "peace out." Iraqis lack the basic necessities they need to survive. We need to force the president to stick to his flimsy word and help put Iraq back on its feet. If we want to talk about moral values so much as Americans, let's be moral and help them out. And, after we leave, we must provide them economic aid, erase debts and help with humanitarian support.

A smarter, stronger America

In the void left open by the lack of a strong, progressive voice, President Bush and the Republicans have seized power using fear, tough rhetoric and jingoistic appeals. For our opposition to the war in Iraq and to the president's hollow attempts at homeland security, we've been branded as soft on terror and pro-retreat. We know, of course, that that's not the case – no Democrat wants terrorists to attack the United States and no Democrat is afraid to commit our troops overseas as a last resort. But we've got to do a better job filling this vacuum with sound, progressive ideas.

The Bush administration's cavalier attitude has won support, but it has also left the world more vulnerable. The attacks around the world have taught us that Bush's flypaper approach is at once foolhardy and a failure. Terrorism – especially the threat of attacks in America – remains a very real threat, one that must be met with a better policy. True homeland security has to be far more than tough talk, bag checks and armed vigilantism.

Since Bush has been president, we've done nothing but throw our weight around the world. Everyone thinks of us as bullies. But it doesn't have to be like that. Instead of using our military might as a club, we should be trying to use everything at our disposal – our economy, our diplomacy, our military – as a force of growth and peace throughout the world. It's time we lead with our heart.

From the '60s to today

If you look around, you're seeing the germination of a renewed anti-war movement. Parents like Cindy Sheehan are voicing their concerns. Thousands around America rallied recently in support of Sheehan and our soldiers. Congressmen like Feingold and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel – who compared Iraq to Vietnam – are sounding the drumbeat. Paul Hackett nearly took office in a Republican-dominated district for his anti-war views. Sure, more and more people are dissatisfied with the war in Iraq. But we've got to move beyond that. This is neither a single-issue fight nor a numbers game.

Think of everything the war in Iraq has affected: Our economy. Gas prices. Global security. Homeland security. Our society's civility. This is such a far-reaching, Republican-caused disaster that it's rather hard to get our heads wrapped around its impact. That's what we've got to do for the Americans to whom this is just night after night of violence on television: We've got to convince them that it's not just hurting us there, but it's hurting us here, too. We've been presented with a transformative opportunity, one that we must take advantage of if we are to regain power, improve our short-term outlook and foster long-term prosperity.

Getting out of Iraq must be our priority. Doing it the right way is imperative. Bush and the Republicans got us there, they lost and there's no changing that fact. Relying on sound thinking and progressive action, there can be an end in sight – one that every American can be proud of.

* For more in-depth reading about a progressive foreign policy (and one of the inspirations behind this piece), read this wonderful, convincing article by Lakshmi Chaudhry. For another expert opinion on why we have to get out of Iraq, read this article from Larry Johnson.

08/25/2005 at 08:15 PM | Permalink

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Setting a date provides terrorists (or freedom fighters, whatever you call them) hard intelligence as to when US troops will be at there most vulnerable. But I'm sure you support the troops. When they are dead.

Posted by: Kevin | 08/25/2005

Who called them freedom fighters, Kevin. So what do you propose, then? NOT setting a date and having our troops continue to get killed at a greater and greater pace? The illogic of your post is so typical of the average right wing talking points that it borders on laughable. You don't know me. I have friends over there, friends I care about. Friends I would like to see home safely. Friends there without the armor they need. Friends whose colleagues are having their benefits cut when they return. Friends whose president has placed them in an impossible situation, playing beat cop in a lawless nation that our ham-fisted policies helped produce.

Setting a date is the right thing to do. "Staying the course" and "winning the fight" are big talk that only win over folks like you, not actually SOLVING anything. So, if the terrorists you mention thought how you did, why wouldn't they just stop attacking us in hopes that we leave, THEN striking? What you're missing is that they're attacking us BECAUSE WE'RE THERE. If we're not there, they won't attack us.

So don't put words in my mouth. I won't put thoughts in your head. Deal?

Posted by: Joseph | 08/25/2005

If we create a timetable for the troops to leave, the insurgents will lose their main recruiting incentive: the indefinite presence of the invaders.

Posted by: John M. Burt | 08/26/2005

Exactly right.

Posted by: Joseph | 08/26/2005

Is the indefinite pressence of invaders acutaually the main recruiting incentive?

I have seem more from Bin Laden/Zarqawi on how Democracy is incompatible with Islam than that the U.S. pressence defiles Iraq (he did care heavily about U.S. pressence in Saudi.) I have seen plenty also about how a Shiite dominated Iraq will be dangerous for Sunnis in Iraq.

From what I can tell, the foreign fighters and Sunni insurgents will be at least as motivated to end Iraqi democracy if we left today as they would if we remained indefinately. The don't blindly hate what we are doing in Iraq because we are the U.S. They hate what we are doing in Iraq, because they do not want a democracy there.

Posted by: Dave Justus | 08/26/2005

Joseph, I got here from Ezra's blog. I'm glad you took the time to answer the question "What would I do, however? How would I construct an exit strategy, a progressive answer to our regressive foreign policy?"

I'm just not sure I see a specific exit strategy above. Nor do I come away from this thinking that a progressive could do better. I'm looking for specifics. How do you get support from other countries? How do you train Iraqi security forces quicker? What is the specific timeline to use?

The reason I think you failed to answer this is not your fault at all. It is that its entirely possible there is no specific answer to how we succeed and leave and still save face at this point. I think Yglesias might be right. This war isn't failing because it was ill carried out, its failing because it was ill conceived.

Posted by: Adrock | 08/26/2005

"Setting a date provides terrorists hard intelligence as to when US troops will be at there most vulnerable."

Why would our troops be most vulnerable when they are extracting? You must think they are inept, that they are unqualified to do their job.

Do you think they would turn their backs on the enemy as they were exiting? No, Americans will be exiting this war by walking backwards, guns pointing toward the enemy.

Posted by: Adrock | 08/26/2005

Adrock, I agree, I could have gotten into more specifics and I won't use brevity as an excuse. I wanted to paint a general picture of what I thought Bush isn't doing and what a progressive policy could do. Do I want our troops there after next year? Not at all. I also agree that Bush has mismanaged the planning of Iraq so badly that finding a way out is like trying to untangle that knot that always shows up in the Christmas lights. But I should have been more explicit about how soon I want our troops gone. By the end of 2006. Will this ever happen? There'll be a token withdrawal for sure (to help with the mid-terms). But given the nature of those bases we're building there, we're in this one for the long haul.

Posted by: Joseph | 08/26/2005

You're probably right.

Me? I'm just sick of seeing Americans dying. Must be a flaw in my personality or something. I guess Bush and his defenders aren't sick of it.

Posted by: Adrock | 08/26/2005

Me too. I think their compassion chip has been removed.


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