The Fright Wingers have been all over the case of the Iraq Study Group (ISG), calling them "Surrender Monkeys" (the New York Post), accusing them of re-fighting the Vietnam War (curiously, as opposed to many on the right Blogosphere, many of the Group actually have picked up a weapon, some in Vietnam even!), and just generally calling the program unrealistic or some variation thereof.
One might think it's slightly more realistic to sit down, see that we have an enormous mess on our hands, and try to figure the most graceful exit from a debacle that really holds no graceful exits. It's now a matter of how much fecal matter we can avoid.
The cogent point that Alex made is this:
If anything, the mistake in Vietnam (and Iraq) was treating a political problem like a war, not the other way around.These past four years, as I've groped around like a sighted man in a pitch black room where the furniture's been rearranged for an appropriate way to describe why fighting this war was wrong, I had circled this concept, but never really summed it up so precisely. Thank you, Alex.
Iraq is, or rather was and is again, a political problem. President Clinton understood this. He knew that containment and embargoes were having the effect they needed to have: keeping Saddam at bay while not removing a critical balancing point in the Middle East: the threat of Saddam's "WMDs", and how they were keeping Iran and Syria in check. Clinton knew that, remove Saddam and Iran and Syria would be free to indulge their most lavish terror fantasies, including nukes and the potential destruction of Israel.
In essence, a political problem: how to keep Saddam in check without yanking his teeth.
We've seen the results of treating Iraq as both a political problem and a military problem: Eleven years of peace, marred only by the random missile lobbed at a US or British fighter plane, versus a regional conflict in the making, involving Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even the Sudan and Somalia for good measure.
And that's before counting all the places that have suffered terror attacks and military action against terror groups as a direct result of our and our allies' actions in Iraq: Madrid, London, Bali, Jordan and the Phillipines.
Vietnam, too, was a political problem: how to keep Communism in check. The military solution wasn't the answer, because the underlying premise, the Domino Theory, was invalid, as demonstrated by the fact that Thailand is not Communist today.
I heartily and openly admit to being a pacifist, but that doesn't mean I disagree with all military actions, just that military action should be a last resort (you know, "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent"). Afghanistan, for example, was a military action I supported, because we had a clear objective: find and capture Osama bin Laden, who had masterminded the September 11 attacks. It was clear the Taliban were not going to give him up to a extradition request. We had to go in and get him.
Or so we thought.
Neither did I support the first Gulf War, although I found that one a little more palatable, so made less of a stink about it. Then-President Bush...you know, Ol' Weepy...managed to convince the UN to put together a coalition to "save" Kuwait from Saddam's oil predations.
Not exactly the stuff heroic novels are written on, but it did involve protecting the sovereignty, however noxious that sovereignty was, of a country.
Similiarly, altho I did not support the Kosovo action, I could make less of a stink about that, as well: a NATO operation, it involved protecting the rights (ironically of Muslims) of an ethnic minority against the genocide of another ethnic group in country.
Sort of like going into Darfur and fighting the janjaweed, which has the added allure of being action taken against Muslim terrorists who might have knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts. Which may be why we haven't taken up that cause.
So what IS the solution to Iraq now? According to Jon Stewart, the ISG recommendation #73 is "Call a Jedi," with which I heartily concur.
No, I'm not kidding. Altho "Jedi" is not the description I'm thinking of, in effect, this solution will call for a person of indisputable impartiality, someone the Fright Wing has poopooed, and by extension, has been disrespected by the administration, but who is not cozy with Iraqis in general, or Iran or Syria. It must be a person who has familiarity with the entire region, who can get involved in the Palestinian/Israeli question without fealty to either side (and who, in fact, has had issues with both parties). A man who, while supportive of our actions in Afghanistan because of the 9-11 tragedy, has taken great pains to remain objective in his approach to that conflict as well.
I hear Kofi Annan is even looking for a job....