Sunday, August 6


The NY Times editorial board chides the Democrats for advocating a timed withdrawal from Iraq. What they fail to mention is that their proposal mirrors almost perfectly John Kerry's own vision for Iraq, which he articulated during the 2004 presidential race, and the Times itself pronounced "sensible." Kerry, of course, was widely derided by Republicans and conservatives for his nuanced approach to the problem and suggestions that the international community should assume a greater role in resolving the conflict.

Democrats are embracing the withdrawal option because it sounds good on the surface and allows them to avoid a more far-reaching discussion that might expose their party’s own foreign policy divisions. Most of all, they want an election-year position that maximizes the president’s weakness without exposing their candidates to criticism. But they are doing nothing to help the public understand the grim options we face.

The only responsible way out of Iraq involves all the things President Bush refused to consider on the way in. That means enlisting help from some of the same Arab neighbors and European allies whose opinions and suggestions were scornfully ignored before the invasion. Getting their assistance would be a humbling experience. Americans may feel the war is going badly, but they have not been prepared to acknowledge failure.

America’s allies have an interest in not seeing Iraq turn into a hive of terrorists and a font of regional instability. However, before other nations become involved they would certainly insist on a laundry list of American concessions, from a share in war-related business for their contractors to an all-out United States push for a renewed peace process among Israel, the Palestinians and their neighbors.

A serious plan for disengagement from Iraq is not well tailored to the campaign trail. Real withdrawal will be messy and unpleasant. Even under the best of circumstances, it could well end in disaster. But the country cannot afford another election cycle of bipartisan evasions.

It is not "evasion" to say, at this point, that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq. We've learned, to our dismay, that American voters "don't do nuance." Democrats, if they were in power, wouldn't precipitously pull out the troops but would, in the manner of Clinton towards Bosnia, seek an international solution, which Bush has failed to do but pretends to have done with his bogus "coalition of the willing." But the details are too complicated for corporate media sound bytes. When we start to expound upon the diplomacy necessary to support a U.S. withdrawal we lose the media and, by extension, the voters. The Times understands this. They are being disingenuous in suggesting that the Dems are playing politics here. An announcement that the U.S. is serious in its intent to withdraw from Iraq would signal to the Muslim world that we do not intend a permanent occupation (which Bush's military base-building contra-indicates), and a serious attempt to engage our European allies and Arab countries neighboring Iraq would certainly accompany such an announcement (under a Democratic administration).

But George W. Bush will remain president for another two years. Given his track record, one can hardly have confidence that he will trouble himself to seek the kinds of solutions the Times or Democrats, might suggest. Two more years of this debacle in Iraq will bankrupt the American treasury and any remaining U.S. moral authority. Given that, all the Democrats CAN do at this point is insist upon a withdrawal.

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