Friday, September 29, 2006

Halper and Marshall; A Controversial Op-ed

As promised, the stories on yesterday's event are up:

Marisa Morrison covers Stefan Halper's critique of current policy: "bumper sticker slogans” provided by “jingoistic infotainers.”

Robert VerBruggen gives us Will Marshall's War Plan for the Democrats.

I certainly will win no new friends now that the op-ed coauthored with Ray Takeyh is out in today's Boston Globe.


Several points in response to your op-ed.

First, I don't think it is necessary any longer to describe the sectarian strife in Iraq as low-level. With a population in Iraq of almost 30 million, losing 100 people a day is equivalent to a civil war in the United States that takes the lives of 365,000 people a year. No one over here would call that low-level.

Second, the fact that Iraq attracts terrorists already doesn't directly answer the question of whether the Sunni region would become a terrorist enclave once we depart. But I think a case can be made that western Iraq will not become an al-Qaida base. It seems likely that al-Qaida will carry on against the Shia army and Shia death squads once we have gone. But if the Shias are strong enough to impose themselves on the country as a whole, al-Qaida will flee, and if the Baghdad government chooses to leave western Iraq alone, al-Qaida could become expendable to the Sunnis who live there.

Third, on a less positive note, radical Islamism could get a boost from a US withdrawal under duress. This is no reason to stay in Iraq fighting an inconclusive war but much of the damage that has occurred to our standing abroad (and to the standing of those at home opposed to continuing the war) is a function of coupling the specific call to pull out with vague or piecemeal calls to revamp our policy in the region and our means to pursue it. If and when we begin to disengage, America will need to have a clearer policy to take the place of the one now ending. We will need a larger change in policy and not just essentially tactical adjustments to continue the present one minus Iraq.
Courageous op-ed.

From Will Marshall:

And The Nixon Center’s Alexis Debat expressed doubts that Marshall's suggestions answered all the important questions Democrats would face. For example, whether to work with the powerful but anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood.

Marshall responded that theUnited States should not support the organization but should promote elections in which Brotherhood members might win.

Hey, that's my idea. Anyway, the problem is not that there aren't democratic thinkers who can draw clear distinctions between their foreign and GWOT policy, and that of the Bush Admin - and not just distinctions, but discinctions within a positive agenda that directly addresses the GWOT -

the problem is that Democratic politicans haven't endorsed one in unison, and that the media pays people like Will Marshall little attention.

Jordan W
In response to Will Marshall's six points:

1. Raise US military by 40,000 troops.

This might have been helpful in Iraq had it been done five years ago and might still be useful to our future needs. But any permanent changes to the military should be part of a better long-term strategy and not just a patch to a commitment that may be ending soon.

2. Strengthen Muslim moderates.

The problem with Muslim opinion is not (as defenders of every administration like to maintain) a US failure to communicate, nor is it (as critics of every administration like to maintain) US policies that alienate local opinion. It is the failure to recognize the basis of moderation, which is the notion of identity. When people give priority to a common humanity, they become moderate perforce, while if they place particular identities first, finding common ground becomes tortuous. The basis of a common humanity is the notion of shared sacrifice, in which we give up as much as the people we want to influence. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to move Muslim opinion in this way with sacrifices that we would both find tolerable. But we should at least recognize that moderates will be more difficult to influence if we address them as Muslims rather than as human beings.

3. Improve collective security, ie. the UN.

The UN needs to be the venue of security in the long run. But in the meantime, there are other models (NATO or at least the OSCE) that we might explore in more extended form with the United States in a less dominant role. The twenty-first century will be less stable unless something more inclusive takes the place of existing frameworks.

4. Keep democracy as a foreign policy aim.

The question is how. The problem with the Bush policy is that it has defined democratic change in purely domestic terms. When we stabilized western Europe after 1945, we did not just bring democracy domestically. We established a new multilateral framework of external relations between democracies to stabilize new or restored domestic institutions. Democracy needs to be embedded in an external framework as well as in changes that are purely domestic. The change needed today may be for such external ties to be less dominated by us (in exchange for stronger multilateral commitments to common ends). The security institutions of the late 1940s were a Democratic Party achievement and Democrats might renew this heritage.

5. Reduce oil dependence.

President Bush arguably could have called on the nation to sacrifice more after 9/11. But reducing oil dependence will require a long-term commitment that presupposes the virtue of long-term thinking. Let's legitimize long-termism first and then watch specific applications of it follow more easily.

6. Invoke a spirit of shared sacrifice

See points 4 and 5 above.
It's a strong op ed. I bounce back and forth on this. I think there is an increased danger of regional conflict if we withdraw in totality.

It will be seen by some as a victory for al Qaeda.

It is a mess and growing worse by the day.
I think a key point of the op-ed is that no matter what we do now, there is a narrative in place that we have lost, and so we should focus on our interests rather than changing people's narratives.

I think there's a good chance you're advocating a policy already in play but that is being kept covert for obvious political reasons. Your argument may make sense but I'm not sure if it'd be wise for Democrats to adopt it since they may be adopting Bush's inevitable talking points. Much depends on the coming elections.

I think you gloss over the consequences of a post withdrawal bloodbath and how it would play out in the Muslim mind: it's not just about defeat and looking weak a la Vietnam, it's also about a dialectic concerning good and evil, salvation and decay, a dialectic the Islamists have championed just as surely as the idiot Bush has. I think it's a mistake to think this is just another Vietnam.

I think you ignore the possibility that in the present or coming civil war that the US may have a horse in that race. It may seem an absurd possibility now but alliance with a losing, disenfranchised Sunni minority, in tandem with an alliance with the Kurds, is not out of the question. A complete withdrawal might compromise such a strategy. I believe a similar alliance with the Shia not credible.
This Op-Ed is basically a rehash of William Odom's earlier remarks.

As for Foreign policy is concerned: US is on top of the heap, the big enchilada, the head honcho - it behooves US then to be both conservative and prudent. USG under GB has destabilized the world.
If US expects to continue to be a world leader it should act like one: absorb injuries (such as 9/11 attacks) with equanimity - not like a mad wounded giant looking for enemies - being frightened of its own shadow.
If US were serious about democracy it would start from Egypt; this is just not in the cards – this is fantasy.
Outstanding Op Ed.

The forked tongued rhetoric of the Bush government is intent on distorting reality, cloaking failure, and generally disinforming the people.

By connivingly intermingling factual elements with naked fictions, - the disinformation warriors, sloganeers, and propagandists in the Bush government continually distort the messages both of the DNC and the fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government.

Cutting and running was never a proposal forwarded by any democratic leader. Murtha and others called for an orderly withdrawl, and redeployment of forces, and a decoupling of the Bush governments death grip on the economic structures, (particularly oil interests) and reconstruction projects in Iraq.

These are suggestions for righting a terrible wrong in Iraq, - not cutting and running.

At the same time, the hollow mantra of "staying the course" and the bruting of the haunting specter of something terrible happening here in the land of OZ if America redeploys out of Iraq belies the factbasedreality of events in the field.

Iran is the winner in Iraq. America is spending 3bn a week, and accomplishing nothing but increasing terrorists, anti-Americanism globally, and engorging the off sheet accounts of the fascist warmongers and profiteers in, or beholden to the Bush government.

Staying the course may save face for the Bush government, - but the debacle in Iraq is heaping America a terribe price in blood, treasure, and loss of credibility onto America's children.

Cutting through the NAKED LIES bruted by the fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government is the only hope for salvaging what little remains of America, and our once more perfect union.

Deliver us from evil.
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