Thursday, August 18, 2005

Liberals: Hawks v. Doves

Democrats unlike Republicans are torn on the Iraq war issue. Why is this? Does any of this war in Iraq make sense? The answer is yes, some of it makes sense and other parts do not make sense. The sooner Democrats understand the motivations in favor of and against the war, the sooner they will be able to frame a coherent and Liberal policy about the war. If they decide, instead, to fudge the issue, they will remain the minority party for another six to ten years.

Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Biden (D-Del) represent the war hawk side of the Democratic Party. Both are in favor of a strenuous continuation of the occupation. They may be predicating their positions on the almost certain beginning of a tentative withdrawal in 2006, not to mention the already announced revision of war aims by Bush & Co.

Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis) represent the dovish side of the Party vis-à-vis Iraq. They believe that a war so misconceived cannot possibly result in any good or profit for our country or the world. It's not that they are peaceniks or quitters; it is that they see the futility of wasting any more of our precious national resources on what has been a first-class Quagmire ever since the Ottoman Turks tried to pacify Mesopotamia in the 19th century.

I am going to make lists of the opposing issues. Not every one of these is easily tucked into a Liberal bed, but people who nominally call themselves Liberals are holding these positions. To be realistic about it I have to acknowledge that some issues are hotter than others and that some have long histories with even longer sad tales of woe attached to them. Some issues are very debatable, and some are more clearly moral issues, whether anyone cares or not. I have put the issues in descending order of weight and importance. The order seems to change with the passing news, but I believe that in the long run these will be the issues and this order the consensus.

PRO (Hawkish) Issues

1a. As long as we are there, we (especially democracy- and liberty-loving Americans) have an obligation to see to it that Iraq has a decent chance to become a friendly, democratic, prosperous ally state in the mideast.

1b. If we were to depart abruptly, Iraq would probably descend into civil war with the outcome surely being that thousands more will die and an Islamist-clerical state like Iran would emerge, dogging our efforts to bring democracy to all nations, and interfering with our access to much-needed petroleum in and around Iraq. Leaving would appear to be another Vietnam loss-of-will debacle further eroding the confidence other nations have in the strength of the United States.

2a. As corporate globalization proceeds it is important that other nations understand that the United States is ready and willing to exercise its muscle to protect national interests, that the domestic population can and will shoulder temporary burdens to achieve longterm goals.

2b. Democrats can ill-afford to appear to be soft on terrorism, national defense, and anything smacking of armed resistance to American influence. [As the election draws nearer this item gets more and more attention.]

2c. Republicans have the tough-guy image, so Democrats need to be seen as not only tough, but smart, too.

3a. It is much better that the jihadist extremists carry out (the preponderance of) their evil work in Iraq than on American or allied soil. [Before Madrid, London, and Sharm al Sheik this used to be the #1 issue.]

3b. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his presumed WMD, who was an evil mass murderer, and who had the temerity to thumb his nose at the U.S. after we supplied him with arms against Iran was not only morally, but politically correct, (not to mention emotionally satisfying).

4a. The security of Israel is intimately tied up with success in Iraq. Failure in Iraq will seriously reduce the security of Israel and, perhaps, set Israeli politics off on a defensive path that makes impossible any kind of settlement with Palestine.

4b. The security of Israel is a key to Jewish votes in certain parts of the U.S., particularly New York.

5. Although the war is expensive in dollars, the cost in American lives is very modest by the standards of previous military engagements. The payback to the overall economy is that the war has acted as a flywheel protecting us from almost certain downturn after the great commercial expansion of the 1990's. [This reminds me of Catch 22, only now instead of chocolate covered cotton we have depleted-uranium covered cities ... like Fallujah.]

6. Underlying all these issues was a strong sense of revenge for the 9/11 attack, a revenge that was not being slaked in Afghanistan, a revenge momentarily shared by all but that was so strong on the Hawk side that it blinded the vengeful to the Dovish issues.

CON (Dovish) Issues

1a. America should not engage in pre-emptive military action against anyone, much less ...

1b. Countries that are innocent of the charges we bring against them as pretext for war, and ...

1c. Countries that we armed when it was in our interest to have them fight a common enemy.

2. The war is producing the very insurgency that it was publically asserted it would eliminate. Producing more terrorists is counter-productive, and sponsoring a training ground for world-wide terrorism is decidedly against our national interests and diminishes our (hoped for) world reputation as a nation committed to the rule of law.

3. The war is the result of lies and other impeachable offenses against the American people and the Congress.

4. The death toll of Americans is now well over 1,800 with no end in sight. The death toll of Iraqis is not less than 25,000 with the possibility that as many as 100,000 have been needlessly killed. The wounded, crippled, dismembered, and their relatives are permanently reduced to poverty and a wretched existence.

5. The war is profitable for key corporate interests but is piling up a national debt designed to disable the social programs created since the Great Depression. It is a neocon dream.

6a. The attenuation of our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan leaves us little maneuvering room for outbreaks in other parts of the world, particularly in North Korea and Iran where the spector of nuclear proliferation threatens not only Israel but the domestic United States.

6b. In order to be credible our national defense must be maintained at peak readiness, but this does not require that we use the armed forces for vengance or out of knee-jerk responses to unrelated provocations.

7. A short and overtly non-imperial occupation of Iraq is possible. Iraqis have problems that only they can solve, (or not as they choose).

At this writing well over half of American polled say that the war in Iraq is not achieving the ends they thought at first that it could. Moreover, most Americans believe that the attack on Iraq, although it unseated the murderous Saddam Hussein (a good thing), was based on falsified information and deception.

Yet, there is a substantial part of the populations that believes that a Vietnamization of the Iraq War is possible if Americans publically declare their lack of support for the war. They believe this should be avoided ... almost at any cost. On the horns of this dilemma, the case seems to rest for the moment.

The moment is, of course, entirely fabricated by the Administration, the media, and politicians of the hawkish variety. The point of being in a democracy is to recognize and accommodate the opinion of a thoughtful majority. We don't go off the deep end too often, hopefully, even if an outraged majority thinks its a good idea at the moment. Instead we hope to be thoughtful about our positions, and when with deliberation we arrive at a conclusion, we should follow it. I believe we have sobered up from our irrational bellyflop in the deep end and should now remove ourselves from Iraq with all deliberate haste.

Democratic candidates and the Democratic national platform should embrace the anti-war issues completely and to the total exclusion of further military adventurism and resource imperialism.

James Richard Brett