Performing his function as the neocon id, Charles Krauthammer gets down to what the Iraq withdrawal debate is really about:
McCain, like George Bush, envisions the United States seizing the fruits of victory from a bloody and costly war by establishing an extensive strategic relationship that would not only make the new Iraq a strong ally in the war on terror but would also provide the U.S. with the infrastructure and freedom of action to project American power regionally, as do U.S. forces in Germany, Japan and South Korea.
As with Krauthammer’s touting the “hidden agenda” of John McCain’s proposed League of Democracies as an instrument “to essentially kill the U.N.,” you can imagine the rest of the Neocon Kids standing just offstage and frantically making the “cut” sign.
Thanks to Krauthammer, though, for clarifying the issue, and the issue is keeping U.S. bases in Iraq. More broadly, it’s about the desperate need of conservatives to realize some sort of strategic benefit from a disastrous war to which dozens of their reputations are rightly tied.
As Josh Marshall described back in April 2003, the Iraq war was never just about WMD. The Iraq invasion of March 2003 was conceived as part of an effort to create a new strategic architecture in the Middle East, and a shiny new democratic and pro-American Iraq was to have been the central plank of this new architecture. In keeping with the tendency of neoconservatives to avoid polluting their theories with actual knowledge of the various countries they want to invade and remake, it never occurred to the various brains of this administration that a democratic Iraq might not necessarily be pro-American one, or at the very least might object to its territory being used as a staging area for future U.S. invasions of its neighbors.
The Democrats have long been protesting the Bush administration’s hard bargaining for strategic assets in postwar Iraq. Maliki knows the Democrats are so sick of this war, so politically and psychologically committed to its liquidation, so intent on doing nothing to vindicate “Bush’s war,” that they simply want out with the least continued American involvement.
Democrats haven’t been “protesting the Bush administration’s hard bargaining” as much as they’ve been protesting the administration’s attempt to dictate U.S. posture in Iraq to future administrations, as well as to the current Iraqi one. It’s Krauthammer who is so politically and psychologically committed to his fantasy of a new American Middle East imperium that he can’t see Maliki’s assertion of Iraqi sovereignty as anything other than an attempt to screw conservatives.
As to the question of “vindicating” the most disastrous national security blunder in modern American history, let’s understand: No matter how hard Krauthammer wishes it, there is no plausible scenario in which the decision to invade Iraq can or will ever be vindicated. In the best case, we will have simply averted disaster. Even were Iraq to magically bloom into a secular democracy tomorrow, there is simply no political, strategic, or moral calculus by which the destruction and suffering — to say nothing of the economic cost — of the last five and a half years can be judged to have been “worth it.”