Packer on Iraq and Prez Race

Smart commentary as always from him.

He laments the fact that the Democratic nominee to be (Barack Obama) and the quixotic also-ran (Hillary Clinton) are in the rush to win votes, especially in a Democratic Primary, especially in a country so tired of the war, fudging it basically.  It’s also called lying.

It was more accurate when both admitted that neither will have all US troops out by 2012–which will be the case I guarantee.  I don’t want permanent bases Korean style model of Defense Secretary Gates, but 16 months, 12 months, whatever their current number for how quickly to get out of Iraq is nonsense and worse setting unrealistic expectations.  That said, Joe Biden was the only Democratic nominee honest on Iraq and look where it got him.

However as bad as that is, and it’s not good, compared to McCain it’s not even a contest.

Here’s Packer on McCain (dead on the money–my emphasis):

McCain committed a serious gaffe of his own this week, on his Middle East trip: several times he insisted that Iran is arming and training Al Qaeda to fight in Iraq, until Joe Lieberman murmured the facts in his ear during a press conference at the Roman ruins outside Amman. This was also a Kinsley gaffe—it’s what McCain seems to believe. He sees the Iraq war as part of a global conflict in which Sunnis and Shia, Al Qaeda and Iran, make up one undifferentiated enemy under the banner of Islamofascism. This is a seriously wrong-headed view, and it will only increase the number and influence of our enemies, as smart counterinsurgency theorists like David Kilcullen have pointed out. It shows the same indifference to fact and nuance that our current President has displayed throughout the war, and displayed again this week in his fifth-anniversary speech at the Pentagon.

He really is running for Bush’s Third Term.  As someone who has studied military history (and history more generally) I knew that the Iraq occupation would last 10-15 years minimum.  We still have troops in Bosnia right?  That is why I opposed it because the President and then Sec. Defense Rumsfeld were lying to the people saying it would be quick, painless, pay for itself.

Now what can happen is a large reduction in troop numbers, but still going to be a sizable force and I’m concerned they will become vulnerable to attack.  But the surge has not succeeded.  Or rather the escalation, which is what it really is/was.  It has failed insofar as there is no unified country known as Iraq any longer existing for there to be any such thing as reconciliation.

My cynical side says this perfectly lines up for a David Petraeus run for the President in 2012.  Because the Democrats who will have to start the draw down in the next term, will be saddled by the right-wing with the loser label and the press will buy it hook line and sinker.

While my wonkish side agrees with Packer, I have to say I’m increasingly skeptical given how unhinged the right has become that any of this discussion is not just some elite parsing.  When it comes down to it, the right is going to re-run the Vietnam tape on the left and leave them holding the bag in Iraq.  Worse still, I can imagine it working in some ways.

Nevertheless, theological cosmic visions of good and evil can not and should not dictate US foreign policy.  The adults (not the senior) has to take this policy over no matter how wacked out their criticism will become.

Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 10:09 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. McCain was right. Iran and Al Qaeda have been workign together for years and years.

    Do you honestly expect the media to be any more clued into the reality of the Islamic Jihad than your average Democratic politician? They share almost identical worldviews.. a worldview that is almost Marxist in it’s POV. (Viewing world events as a function of economy.)

    the Islamic world functions on islamic princples not economic ones.

  2. Vince,

    It is true that there are some AQ folks in Iran under a pseudo-house arrest scenario. One an elder son of bin Laden’s. But anybody in the know knows Iran is holding them as a bargaining chip and will sell them down the river the first good offer they get.

    There have always been these rumors (from the US military) that Iran is somehow funding the Taliban and Sunni militants. No credible evidence has ever been forthcoming to support this charge. I see this more as black psych ops.

    Unless you have some (evidence to support your assertion) you just sound to me like your ranting.

    Riddle me this: Why would Iran support a group (al-Qaeda) that declares them heretics and seeks their overthrow?

    That would be like the US having funded communist insurgents in the Cold War to get rid of a pro-US ally somewhere.

    Iran has been waiting for a pro-Iranian regime in Iraq for centuries, and now has it. Why in God’s name would they do anything to de-stabilize that reality now?

    And in terms of Iran training Iraqi Shia, the only proof has been that elements that have broken with the main leadership of the Mahdi Army have been trained in Iran. i.e. Not actually the Mahdi Army but more criminal elements. And of course the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (strong US ally in Iraq), who basically controls the police in the South, have years of training from the Iranians–when they were in exile there.

    Which is all to say there are two much simpler explanations that actually deal with the facts than yours:

    1)there is a huge black market industry in weapons. So some weapons no doubt started in Iran and ended up in Sunni hands. Via the black market. Not via some top-level governmental initiative from the mullahs.

    2)They are playing regional politics. The US–the media, the administration, too many bloggers–see the issue through the US eyes. We keep judging Iraq based on our notions–i.e. installing democracy. But they are dealing with their history, in their backyard, on their terms, and know how to play the US (telling them what the US wants to hear) to their own ends. Everybody is doing this.

    The Islamic world may or may not function as you say on Islamic principles not economic ones (but surely Islam involves economics???-you mean modern capitalist Western economics I suppose)–but that begs the central issue…there are Shia and Sunni Muslims.


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