The big news over on the rightwing blogs today is Rick Moran, of Right Wing Nut House, recanting his support for Bush's occupation of Iraq. Rick blames the incompetence of Bush's policy and its execution saying that waning US support for that incompetence "will ultimately doom our efforts to take any military success achieved via the surge and turn it into progress on the political front." Perhaps with another dozen or so Fiedmans, Rick says, Bush's failings could be turned into success, but those Friedmans will not now be allowed by the American people.
It's a long and thoughtful post which I won't try to excerpt as it really needs to be read as a whole. Nor will I, although Rick and I have clashed on occasion in the past, castigate him for being so slow in coming to his epiphany nor quibble too much over his reasons. I don't agree with him on everything - but as he writes, he expects that to be the case and simply hopes that some readers will use his post to inform their own thinking rather than being dittoheads. I will say he has the Kurdish situation correct and is again bang on when he says reconcilliation is being stymied "by political forces with differing agendas and competing interests." (More on that subject from me later today.)
But I will reach out with a little hope for him. Another recanted supporter of Bush's war, Andrew Sullivan, quotes his own London Times column in a blog post today.
The question, of course, is whether Americans are being defeatists or realists. One way of answering this question is to ask another: if they are being defeatist in Iraq, who are they conceding defeat to? If it’s to Iraq’s Shi'ite majority, then it's not a defeat but a victory. If it’s to the Kurds, then, again, it’s a win.and he adds:
Saddam is gone. There is no longer any potential threat of weapons of mass destruction from a failed Iraqi state. The actual reasons for fighting this war in the first place have therefore evaporated.
Bush says it would be a defeat against Al-Qaeda. But Al-Qaeda was not the presence in Iraq before the war that it is now. And occupying a Muslim country indefinitely is not exactly a way to staunch jihadist recruits either.
We should do all we can to help from a distance, maybe even a small distance. But this is their fight not ours. We cannot win it; only they can. Our goal should not be our victory against al Qaeda; it should be their victory against al Qaeda. It will only be their victory if we are clearly on the road out. If that happens, we change the narrative of this war decisively - in our favor. But indefinite occupation prevents that scenario from taking place. Ending the occupation and winning the war, in other words, are not opposites. They can be complements. It's a tricky process, but by far the most feasible now on the table.Maybe Rick can take heart from that - certainly his new position isn't a million miles away from it. If you add to Sullivan's words the realisation that Al Qaida are toast as soon as the Sunnis no longer have any reason for common cause with them against the occupation, and that there is simply no chance that Al Qaida in Iraq will "follow us home" in greater numbers than they have hitherto found it possible to do, then you get to my position. The faster the withdrawal, the better.
And I am no longer convinced that trends in Iraq are towards a spreading civil war after US troops leave - indeed, the occupation may well be the enabling force behind sectarian violence too by creating a situation where polarisation against the occupation and against an Iranian-backed Shiite regime makes sectarian violence inevitable. Necessity is the mother of invention and there are signs, although only small ones, that if the occupation's support for the current Shiite government was removed and Iran no longer felt threatened by the US presence on its borders, then a true non-sectarian coalition of Iraqi leaders could effect a reconcilliation government that wouldn't be in the pocket of either the US or Iran. (As I said, more on this later today...probably.)
Many of Rick's commenters seem to want to excommunicate him from the conservative movement entirely today - yet both Moran and Sullivan are undoubtably, apart from their unwillingness to stick to strict dittohead doctrine on Iraq, still conservatives and Republicans. My own opinion is that the zealots who insist loyalty over Iraq is the only litmus test will doom the Republicans to the wilderness if they aren't stopped. That would probably be a bad thing for the US in the long run.
Update Rick, in comments, writes "I'm not for withdrawal but rather a change of mission. We can't win but we can avoid disater might be a more accurate portrayal of my thoughts." He points to a new post of his which tries to clarify what he means by that:
those who believe I was signing on to the Democrats plan for phased withdrawal are simply wrong. In fact, I think it would be a blunder that would make the blunders made the previous 4 years look tame by comparison. Only those wishing the absolute worst for the United States, Iraq, and the Middle East would advocate such a course of action. Better that we maintain a strong presence in Iraq and allow the various factions to work out their own solutions to the problems facing the country.He also writes that "The Prime Minister, the major parties in Iraq (SCIRI, Dawa, the Sadrists) have expressed little interest and less desire in affecting the changes" needed to "alter the political climate and start the Iraqis down the road toward a peaceful society." And he admits that the US military can do nothing to change that.
Yet it may be that the US military can do something to change that. Withdraw.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive but consider that the US presence, which will always be countered by active meddling by other neighbours, especially Iran, acts to keep the current Iraqi political staus quo relatively stable. By withdrawing, the US could create a space for a non-sectarian coalition united by a wish to see the occupation leave and to reassert Iraqi sovereignty free of both US and Iranian influence is possible. There have been signs of such a coalition within the muddle of playing both ends against the middle that comprises Iraqi politics, and I've written about some of them in recent weeks. I'm working up a speculative post which will try to tie it all together but I want to think it over some. It may not be posted today after all.
Update That promised follow-up - Zen and the Art of Iraqi Reconcilliation - is now up.