Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Out Never?

At the close of his rather dour assessment of current Iraqi events (is there any other kind?), Slate's Fred Kaplan opines:

"If the United States pulled out now, the Baathists, Zarqawists, and other insurgents would run wild. The country, rough and ragged as is, would fall apart."

Oh -- you mean the insurgents aren't already running wild? That the country, despite its parliamentary window dressing, isn't falling apart?

Kaplan's is the standard response whenever someone suggests that perhaps US troops should come home. "Why, we can't do that! All hell would break loose!"

"It would? Wow. Say, what's in the paper?"

"Same old shit."

The question of when, if ever, we should leave Iraq is currently vexing a number of American liberals, some of whom were, uh, against the invasion, but now, err, think that maybe we should, ah, stay the course until, ummm, well, like, whenever.

Marc Cooper's been making these noises for some time. While he initially opposed Bush's war, he now more or less supports it, for not doing so would consign Iraq to even greater misery. And, as is Marc's style, those to his left who disagree with his prognosis are slimed, called "knee-jerk," are soft on fascism, etc. His latest target is my dear friend and former radio colleague Laura Flanders (who Marc refers to, exotically, as "Lara"), yet another out-to-lunch lefty who fails the Cooper Reality Test. Doesn't Lara know that her's is a prescription for mass slaughter? That when US troops are killing Iraqis, it's a benevolent brand of butchery? That even though many soldiers refer to Iraqis as "Hajis" and "sand niggers," their contempt comes from a good place? That when the US tortures Iraqis (when we're not outsourcing torture, that is) who've not been charged with any crime, it's a more enlightened form of human degradation? And of course humanity demands that American soldiers continue to die and be maimed in order to maintain the status quo, however bloody and shaky it may be. Clearly, for the sake of the Iraqi people, and by extension ourselves, we must continue to administer our tough love.

Marc contrasts Lara's murderous fantasy with the more sober-minded views of Juan Cole. Now, readers here know that I greatly admire Cole, and his site is a daily must-read. And what Cole says about certain Iraqis, like the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, who do not want an immediate US withdrawal is undoubtedly true -- esp in Sistani's case, given that the US invasion has greatly enhanced his political power. In that sense, US troops are indeed needed, not as liberators but as bodyguards for an emerging Shi'a state. Yet regardless of what Cole says, the problem remains: how long are we staying and for what ultimate purpose?

Personally, I doubt we'll ever leave. One of the main reasons for the invasion was to establish a permanent US presence in the region (which has long been a goal of US planners), and to create "critical leverage" to be used against economic rivals like China, Russia, and the European Union. There is no way that after pouring billions into this carnage that the US is simply going to pack up and go. Plus, there's the political problem of "saving face." Because, once you've lied and slandered and tortured and slaughtered, morality demands that you keep it going (if only a talking dog were urging us on a la Son of Sam, at least we could plead insanity). I mean, who would take us seriously if, God forbid, we reviewed our conduct in Iraq and began efforts to extricate ourselves from the deepening morass?

David Corn, another anguished lib, deals with the from-bad-to-worse Iraq scenario much better than does Marc Cooper. Corn correctly states that no good option exists -- that the invasion has turned Iraq into a living hell and no matter what happens in the near future, chaos and bloodshed will prevail. It's a seriously, seriously fucked up situation, and there's no end in sight. And for those who try to compare Iraq to Vietnam, I agree with Steve Gilliard: there's no comparison; Iraq's worse.