Sunday, July 29, 2007

Right Wing Blather On Iraq Troop Withdrawal

As the Democratic led Congress gets ready to increase the pressure on President Bush to begin a troop drawdown from Iraq, the right wingers who got us into this mess are maneuvering to blame Democrats for whatever carnage ensues.

For a good preview of what's to come, check out this piece of drivel in the Washington Post op-ed page from Peter W. Rodman, "a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution [who] served most recently as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs." (See: "Political cover for Whom?") (Using his Brookings affiliation makes Rodman look a bit liberal; in fact he served in the Reagan and Bush I administrations and then sat out the Clinton administration as an editor at the National Review, before joining the Bush II administration.)

Rodman starts out with a Vietnam analogy, but not the one you'd be expecting. Instead, he argues that in the early 1970's Congress forced Nixon to withdraw from Vietnam just when things were getting better for the U.S. Wow! That's news to us--we had no idea that America was on the cusp of winning the Vietnam war when Congress suddenly "forced" Nixon to do what he had promised repeatedly in his campaign.

It reads even better in Rodman's words, because he says this is now some kind of historical "consensus":

"In 1973, 1974 and 1975, Congress undoubtedly felt it was reflecting the country's disillusionment with the Vietnam War, and it forced a disengagement over the Nixon administration's strong objection. Yet military historians are coming to a consensus that by the end of 1972, there was a much-improved balance of forces in Vietnam, reflected in the 1973 Paris agreement, and that Congress subsequently pulled the props out from under that balance of forces--dooming Indochina to a bloodbath. This is now a widely accepted narrative of the endgame in Vietnam, and it has haunted the Democrats for a generation."

Like we said--wow! We'd like to smoke what this guy is smoking. With folks like that advising "W", it's no wonder we got into a disastrous war in Iraq. Why the Brookings Institution would let Rodman despoil it's good name with this type of blather is beyond us.

Of course, the historical reality is a bit different from Rodman's "consensus" of an "accepted narrative." Nixon promised to withdraw our forces in both his campaigns, and his speeches to the public after being re-elected are filled with those promises. Furthermore, the idea that America was somehow about to win the Vietnam War--or whatever Rodman means by his veiled "much-improved balance of forces" (academic double-talk)--is ridiculous. And the U.S. withdrawal did not "doom[] Indochina to a bloodbath." It had been in a bloodbath for 15 years, first under the French, then under the U.S., and it had only been getting worse, for example, when Nixon bombed Cambodia. Yes, after we withdrew, there was certainly further fighting, including horrific genocide in Cambodia (exacerbated by Nixon's policies--not caused by Congress) but it wasn't long before the region achieved peace and stability for the first time in two decades. That never would have happened if we had stayed.

So, with Rodman's delusional Vietnam analogy out of the way, we then see his argument on Iraq, the one the right wing hopes to use in the future. As Rodman puts it, "will tomorrow's narrative be that the strategic military situation in Iraq was starting to improve in 2007 but Congress pulled the plug anyway--emboldening Islamist extremists throughout the region and demoralizing all our friends?"

Well, it's news to us that Islamic extremists aren't already emboldened. And, it's news to us that our friends aren't already demoralized. It's also news to us that the military situation is starting to improve. It's slightly better, but that's only because the Sunnis and Shi'ites, sensing that a drawdown is nigh, are holding back, waiting for their opportunity to get at each other. If we suddenly announced, "hey, guess what, we're staying for the next five years after all," the next thing that would happen would be resumption of full scale sectarian violence, regardless of how many tens of thousands of troops we send over.

Let's be crystal clear about what the historical narrative should be: delusional pinheads like Rodman and many of his right wing cronies pushed us into a war they thought would be so easy it required little planning or foresight; they ignored experts on the region who said all we'd do by taking out Saddam is create a vacuum in which old sectarian hatreds would blossom into civil war, while also carving out a new haven for Al Qaida; after screwing our troops with bad planning, they derided war opponents for "undermining" our troops; when it all finally ended they claimed that after six years of ineptitude and incompetence, they were somehow just on the verge of turning it all around when Congress intervened and brought the troops home; and that the bloodbath that ensued was somehow different than the bloodbath that was going on all along.

(If you're not sure about this narrative, go see "No End In Sight," the documentary directed by another Brookings Institution Senior Fellow, Charles Ferguson. While we haven't yet seen No End, it has gotten rave reviews. Here's an excellent trailer:

It's nice to see that the folks who got us into this mess are already trying to blame the folks trying to get us out of it.

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