Saturday, March 29, 2008


While Democratic Party forces savage one another throughout much of America, Shiites from Iraq seem intent on doing the same to each other in their own home country. It’s not yet a story that captivates us here in the US of A – we’re falling back into our “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” phase, which is more or less our equilibrium state – but it might be a story that captivates us within a month or two if the Iraq Civil War deteriorates any further. You can attribute this not to our empathy for Iraqis but to the fact that the soldiers who are now primarily responsible for keeping the peace are Americans. The Iraqi Army, the one we have spent the last five years building up, is obviously not ready for the battle. If you took those boys and my beloved Stanford basketball team and sent them to Houston to fight Texas, I’d still take the Longhorns … and give the points.

This story should be a further reminder that some of my fellow liberals can be pretty glib when they talk about sternly wagging our fingers at the Iraqis, telling them that they better police themselves because we’re getting out of their country within a year or so. I’ve frequently heard the suggestion that the Iraqis should be able to handle such an exodus of US forces, and we should be able simply to wash our hands of the conflict without leaving the country in a Hellish state. That is way too Pollyannaish. As soon as we leave, the forces of chaos will come back to fill the vacuum and there will be civil war in Mesopotamia. Even we were to leave at a time of relative peace – like Basra was when the British left – as soon as our troops leave, whether it’s in ten months or in ten years, a killing field will replace us. You can bank on it.

So what’s my solution, then? McCain’s never-ending occupation? Not at all. I’d get out, just like my other fellow liberals suggest. But I’d do it with integrity.

We liberals often talk about the Iraqi Civil War like it is the Iraqis’ problem. McCain talks about it often like it is America’s problem. The fact of the matter, however, is that it is the world’s problem. Instability in that country can only lead to instability throughout the Middle East, not to mention a greater threat of terrorism worldwide. But the United States is in no position to police the place indefinitely. To begin, our military can’t take the pounding of a never-ending war. We can’t afford to do so and still hope to maintain morale in our forces, let alone to fight other wars in different countries (like Afghanistan, for example). Even if we wanted to stay indefinitely and continue to sacrifice our men and women in the Middle East the way they once sacrificed animals to the gods, we don’t have the military wherewithal to do so. Secondly, we don’t have the moral standing to police Iraq … at least not effectively. We’re not wanted there by huge segments of the population, and why should we be? After all, it was our ridiculous offensive, which was perpetrated for reasons known only to the neo-Cons, that fueled the flames of chaos. To McCain – who stupidly supported the offensive – that gives us the responsibility to finish the job, no matter how many years or decades that might take. But to me, it gives us the responsibility to apologize and get the hell out of Dodge, while leaving it in the hands of someone else.

But who? That’s the question, isn’t it? Who can we trust to put the genie back in the bottle?

I see two alternatives. Neither is any good. But both are preferable to the untenable status quo. First, after we publicly admit the absurdity of our own offensive, we can participate in a true multinational force, which would have as its goal overseeing a partition of the country along the lines previously formulated by Joe Biden. Yes, America can participate in such a force if it chooses to, but I don’t think we should take the lead in it. Even here in America, I’m used to hearing charges that our involvement in Iraq is motivated by imperialism and lust for oil. I can only imagine what percentage of Iraqis believe that. If an international force is to be respected and trusted as one that is interested simply in peace and justice for the region, it should be led by forces OTHER than Americans. I hate to type those words, but we’ve made such a mess of that area that I have no choice. That’s the price of being a superpower that invades a country for no apparent good reason.

The other alternative is one that should be attractive to the neo-Cons, if only they took off their “imperialism” hats and put back on the hats that they normally wear in discussing economic theory. Call it laissez-faire, call it social Darwinian, call it might-makes-right. Under this approach, we would simply leave the country, the Iraqis would then pursue their own individual or tribal interests and fight it out for a while, and at some point, the struggle would end and some group would prevail. Perhaps it would be loyal to Iran. Perhaps not. But the point is that we would deal with the victorious power the same way we now deal with Tehran and once dealt with Saddam Hussein – with disgust, to be sure, but also with the trust that it would be able ruthlessly to police its own dissenters.

Neither of these options thrills me. I have no idea that the internationally-overseen partition idea would be effective, and I have every idea that the social Darwinian idea would be horrible. But the idea of simply staying in Iraq for years on end, hemorrhaging soldiers, destroying our reputation internationally, and serving as witnesses to a never-ending civil war strikes me as absurd. We must take some decisive action. We cannot simply elect John McCain, pronounce him George III – or John McSame – and go back to “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” For starters, such an approach will, ironically, destroy our economy. The Iraq War is as expensive in dollars as it is in limbs. For every possible reason, “out of sight, out of mind” is no longer a tenable option.


YoungMan said...


Actually fairly well thought out.

Glad that you are inaccurately referring to yourself as a "liberal" again rather than "progressive".

Daniel Spiro said...

Well, Youngman, Betty (and any one else out there, regardless of where you went to college) ...

This is a thrilling day for me. My daughter, a high school senior, was accepted into my alma mater -- where I met the Youngman and Betty.

I still can't believe the news.

YoungMan said...


Heartiest congratulations. Maybe they gave her Mitch Johnson's spot after last night (no surprise there).

Now I understand why there is a vm mail message waiting for me. Just got back to the West Coast from a two days in NY/Boston.

I just hope she "migrates" after her undergrad days...unlike smeone else i know.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! That's awesome!

You know, she is probably smarter than you are ... they say this year was one of the hardest to get into college in recent history...

Daniel Spiro said...


Mitch Johnson? I moved on to Stanford WOMEN'S basketball. The men are so five minutes ago.

Daniel Spiro said...


I have no doubt that I couldn't get into Stanford if I were in high school and applying today. Nor could any of my friends.

Except, of course, for Youngman.


YoungMan said...


I'm glad you recognize that fact.