Monday, September 25, 2006

The blindingly obvious

In the "what took them so long" department, the CIA has finally recognized that the invasion of Iraq has increased terrorism rather than hindered it.

This has been blindingly obvious for years. As has the solution.

But the Bush administration has never let facts get in the way of policy. Not even when the facts threaten to undermine that policy. For instance, even as the Army is extending more tours in Iraq, the administration has been trying to cut the Army's budget. The Army, in an unprecedented move, has protested the cuts as not only unwise, but as making it impossible to meet current commitments.

This pennywise, pound-foolish approach to security isn't an isolated instance. For instance, the U.S., while calling for U.N. intervention in Lebanon and Darfur, has been concerned about the growing cost of such peacekeeping missions. So in order to keep costs down, they pressured the U.N. to withdraw peacekeepers from East Timor in 2005. That worked so well that Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal had to send troops to restore order in May, and the UN will reintroduce about 1,600 police.

Meanwhile, a group of retired officers who had made stinging criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld individually earlier this year are appearing before a Senate committee today, where they are expected to repeat those blunt assessments. A taste:

"I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste said in remarks prepared for a hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

A second witness, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, is expected to assess Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically ...."

"Mr. Rumsfeld and his immediate team must be replaced or we will see two more years of extraordinarily bad decision-making," said his testimony prepared for the hearing, to be held six weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections in which the war is a central issue.

At long last, the national consensus is arriving at the conclusion that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake that has hurt our efforts to combat terror. Too bad it took three years, 2,800 American lives, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, tens of thousands of wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. What's worse is that, even having reached that conclusion, we cannot simply end the war because of a moral obligation to see the Iraqi people through to some sort of conclusion.

Given all of the above, however, it seems unlikely that the current administration will be able to deliver such a conclusion. In which case, pulling out immediately is the only rational choice. If we're not going to do what we need to do to fix the mess we created, then we should leave before we do any more harm to ourselves and Iraq.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

Great analysis Sean. Be careful, you will be labeled a defeatist liberal by so-called centrists that support the war. I don't know what I think about withdrawl other than Bush has made any choice a h obson's choice. I think we should be out of there, but I also think that withdrawing could make things worse. I sort of feel like Powell, we broke it so its ours. One thing for sure, it's past time worrying about handing the terrorists a victory by withdrawing; that's already happened.

It seems to me the CIA gets a bum rap. Their analysis pre-war about WMD was not unreasonable but it was manipulated by the Administration to justify the invasion. As I recall, the CIA reached a similar conclusion about Viet Nam which, again, no one listened to.

9/26/2006 3:27 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Be careful, you will be labeled a defeatist liberal by so-called centrists that support the war.

That would be hard. Though I opposed the invasion from the beginning, once we went in most of my criticisms were directed at how we weren't actually trying to win the war, and suggesting get serious methods for doing so.

All were shot down by "war supporters". Plan for the occupation? Nope. Go in with a serious number of troops? Nope. Increase the size of the military by a division or two after it became clear that Iraq was sucking the military dry? Nope. Send more troops when it became clear the military situation was deteriorating? Nope.

And let's not forget nonmilitary moves: Ask nicely for international help? Nope. Be humble and contrite and again ask for help once it became clear Iraq was going south? Nope.

Having suggested all that and been rebuffed at every turn, I think it's reasonable to conclude that we are not actually serious about winning in Iraq. In which case, there's nothing "cut-and-run" about saying we should leave. Because accusing someone of "cutting and running" requires that there be an actual strategy that they are abandoning. And we don't have one.

Hobson's choice, indeed.

The CIA gets a bit of a bum rap, but much of it is justified, too. We have very few human assets in the region, and very few Arabic speakers who are familiar with the culture. Mideast politics can be very fluid and subtle, and those subtleties can be hard to pick out from reading a translated document at a desk in Langley.

9/26/2006 9:15 PM  

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