It sounds moronic, of course, a horrible cliché. It is, however, genuinely true that children suffer horribly in war, especially in war that’s gone so very badly as this one has.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, tonight announced his support for an immediate shift in Iraq policy, calling on President Bush “to downsize the U.S. military’s role in Iraq and place much more emphasis on diplomatic and economic options.”
In a major speech on the Senate floor, Lugar said that “victory” in Iraq as defined by President Bush is now “almost impossible.” The current course of the war “has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond,” he said.
Lugar warned that “persisting indefinitely” with Bush’s escalation strategy “will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term.” He specifically rejected claims that withdrawing U.S. forces will increase instability. Downsizing the U.S. military presence in Iraq would “strengthen our position in the Middle East, and reduce the prospect of terrorism, regional war, and other calamities,” Lugar said. Watch it:
Also today, the Center for American Progress released its latest detailed Iraq exit strategy, Strategic Reset, which calls for virtually all U.S. troops to be redeployed out of Iraq within one year. Read more about the report, and analysis from Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman.
UPDATE: Full text of Lugar’s speech is HERE.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino struggled again today to explain why Vice President Cheney was exempted from a presidential order meant to safeguard classified national security information.
Perino stuck by her argument from Friday that President Bush never intended for the executive order to apply to Cheney any differently than it applies to the president’s own office. Asked why Bush was exempted, Perino claimed it would be “awkward” for the president to ask an executive branch agency “to come in and investigate himself.”
On Friday, Perino refused to say whether Cheney is a member of the executive branch. Today, she returned with an answer: like “every vice president,” Cheney has “legislative and executive functions.” Does that mean he is a member of the executive branch? “Look, I’m not a legal scholar,” Perino said, again calling it an “interesting constitutional question.” Watch it:
Perino claimed ignorance about other key questions in this scandal. She said she didn’t know when President Bush had altered the executive order to exempt Cheney, or why the order was amended in 2003.
Also, Perino rejected a call today from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recuse himself from the Justice Department’s internal debates over whether Cheney is violating the executive order. “No, I don’t think that’s necessary,” said Perino.
Transcript: Read more
Iran’s oil-fueled prosperity tends to undercut another still-prevalent idea in Washington and European capitals: that with yet one more set of U.N. sanctions Iran will give up its nuclear program. Even many reformers who despise Ahmadinejad and his clumsy defiance of international opinion say that’s not going to happen. America’s confrontational approach to Iran, says S.M.H. Adeli, Iran’s former ambassador to London, “has already gone on for three decades, and it hasn’t worked. Why should it work now?” U.N. sanctions are shrugged off by most Iranians as a cost of doing business, adding about 6 percent to prices in general.
To me, six percent sounds like a lot; I feel like a politician proposing some policy initiative likely to generate an across the board six percent price increase would be doomed. Maybe that’s just me. Hirsh’s description of the actual conditions of Iranian life are interesting.
I’ve had the chance to review the Center for American Progress’ excellent new report on Iraq, Strategic Reset: Reclaiming Control of U.S. Security in the Middle East. It’s a very serious report, though probably one the Very Serious People of the world won’t be too pleased with. By the same token, however, when the Center’s original Strategic Redeployment plan was released in Fall 2005 it was rejected as unserious, only to look prophetic within months. Had their advice been taken back then, or back in spring 2006 when they released Strategic Redeployment 2.0, it might be possible to view less drastic measures as viable today. But mistakes have consequences. For all the joking about Friedman Units, it’s actually true that the U.S. has faced a succession of windows of opportunity in Iraq, and now most of those windows have shut. Realism about the nature of the situation and about American interests requires us, as they argue, to prioritize limiting the regional — and global — damage of the wreckage of the war rather than engage in further fantasies that a clever plan and a renewed emphasis on training can save Iraq.
To say that we have to leave Iraq expeditiously isn’t to deny that bad things may results, but merely to acknowledge that “many events that some fear would result if U.S. troops left Iraq are unfolding now just as the U.S. troops presence is getting larger.” The fundamental dynamic is unfolding according to its own logic, and while the course could change it’s clear that we don’t have any methods at hand to change it. In terms of our moral and humanitarian obligations to Iraqis, CAP suggests we do what we can to address these directly — increasing the number of Iraqi refugees we accept, pressuring regional allies to do the same, and dispersing US personnel and assistance in Iraq away from the central government to promising local actors, if any — rather than trying to fulfill these obligations through a doomed effort to micromanage Iraqi political developments. Similarly, they suggest that the regional fallout from our failure in Iraq be dealt with directly — at the regional level, by returning our military forces to locations where they’re more welcome and easier to sustain, and through diplomacy guided by the reality that none of the major regional players want to see a spreading arc of chaos.
At any rate, read the report for yourself if you’re interested. It’s very good stuff, and something the presidential candidates should embrace instead of these vague formulas about a residual training presence plus force protection to guard the trainers plus god knows what else to make that work. The most important thing, as they note, is that this business of arming and training Iraqi security forces in the absence of a political solution is not just a waste of time and money, but directly counterproductive. Our weapons and funding are fueling civil conflict in the face of deep political fragmentation and there are absolutely no guarantees as to who these arms will be turned against next year or the year after that. “The medicine of more weapons and training for Iraq’s security force may actually end up killing the patient—and will certainly end up killing more Americans, too.” The training concept has become, in my view, a kind of psychological crutch for US elites who don’t want to face their own basic inability to improve things. The idea that you could help resolve an ongoing multifaceted conflict by introducing greater quantities of lethal weaponry and better-trained fighters is absurd on its face. At best, we’re in the position of arming several sides in a multi-pronged civil war in the vague hope that whoever prevails won’t notice we were also arming their adversaries and be loyal to us down the road, which seems like a really, really, really stupid bet.
A new Center for American Progress report titled Strategic Reset calls for the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops within one year, and for the United States to “phase out its training of Iraq’s national security forces and place strict limits on further arming and equipping Iraq’s forces.”
Training security forces has been one of the main tenets of President Bush’s Iraq strategy. Bush has repeatedly stated, “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” and the United States has already invested $20 billion into training Iraq’s national army and police force. Other major Iraq strategies — including the Iraq Study Group and Congress’s war funding bill — also advocate continuing to fund Iraqi security forces.
But Strategic Reset charts a new course, arguing that this approach is actually contributing to the violence in Iraq:
First, the United States is arming up different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years. Second (and more important to America’s strategic interests) billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance is going to some of the closest allies of America’s greatest rival in the Middle East — Iran. The Shi’a-dominated Iraqi national army and security forces could quite quickly turn their weapons against American troops and allies in the region. [...]
Training and skill-building are not crucial for Iraq’s security forces. In fact many of them have more training than hundreds of U.S. soldiers being deployed as part of this surge. Rather, the Iraqi forces’ problems are related to motivation and allegiance. In the past three years, the size of Iraq’s security forces and the levels of violence have both grown steadily, even as the U.S. troop presence remained constant.
Other highlights of Strategic Reset:
– Redeployment of U.S. troops: U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Iraq by the summer of 2007, at the latest. “U.S. troop levels in Iraq could decline to about 70,000 by January 2008, with a full redeployment completed by September 2008.” Troops would rotate to Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, back to the United States, or to other “critical missions outside of Iraq.”
– Engage in global/regional diplomatic initiatives: The Bush administration needs to participate in regional conferences and engage in bilaterial discussions with Iran, ensuring that “the costs of intervening to exploit Iraq’s internal divisions are much higher than the benefits gained from working collectively to contain, manage, and utimately resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts.”
– Active leadership on the Arab-Israeli conflict: Bush should appoint a special Middle East envoy who would have the support of two senior ambassadors devoted to resolving Middle East conflicts. Not only does the United States need to negotiate with Iran and Syria to solve these issues, but it must also “remove any roadblocks it may have inappropriately placed in Israeli exploration of Syrian intentions.”
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman at TPMmuckraker has more analysis.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias also has more.
See chart below for the correspondence between the levels of Iraq’s security forces and the violence in Iraq: Read more
Okay, we’re all already accustomed to hawks’ blaming the opponents of their war in Iraq for the fact that their war in Iraq is failing. Now Brendan Nyhan catches Joshua Muravchik taking this in an innovative new direction — apparently doves are going to be responsible for the outbreak of the war with Iran that hawks have been agitating for. If only we would just give Muravchik’s demented pals in the administration a free hand to conduct policy according to their whims, then everything would be fine.
Shorter Roger Cohen: Because US policy in the Middle East before 2003 was in some respects unsatisfactory, the invasion of Iraq must be considered a good thing independently of its actual consequences.
This business where “Totalitarian hell – malign stability – holds no hope” whereas “violent instability is unacceptable but not hopeless” and therefore the invasion is great is just moronic. The Iraq adventure was, among other things, massively costly both in dollars and in American lives. Once you start thinking about whether or not we should engage in massive expenditures for humanitarian purposes it makes sense to hold ourselves to a higher standard — we might ask, for example, that our massive humanitarian expenditures have some clear benefits and not result in large-scale death and destruction.
On the Cohen standard, by contrast, if we take any bad situation and just render it very chaotic that counts as a good idea. So that, maybe, a massive preemptive nuclear first strike on Beijing would be a good idea because, hey, it would hold out “hope” of democratic change in China. Sure it would probably result in mass death and chaos leading to more mass death, but if we use a little “imagination” we can see that it might all be okay in the end.
Defense Department photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr., USAF.
It’s sort of amusing for Martin Peretz to go around acting as if maybe he was a huge supporter of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations until just a couple of weeks ago and now he reluctantly needs to proclaim the end of Palestine.
Here we see Dick Cheney and someone we have to assume is David Addington arguing explicitly that the president is above the law:
Two questions remain, officials said. One involves techniques to be authorized now. The other is whether any technique should be explicitly forbidden. According to participants in the debate, the vice president stands by the view that Bush need not honor any of the new judicial and legislative restrictions. His lawyer, they said, has recently restated Cheney’s argument that when courts and Congress “purport to” limit the commander in chief’s warmaking authority, he has the constitutional prerogative to disregard them.
One could imagine the view that the president has a constitutional obligation to veto any congressional efforts to limit his warmaking authority (by, e.g., prohibiting torture, which is what’s at issue here). One could imagine a stronger view that the courts have a constitutional obligation to defer to the executive branch in the case of a legal controversy over congressional efforts to prevent the executive branch from torturing people. Cheney, here, is standing on the strongest view imaginable — that the executive branch can sign laws banning torture, then keep torturing people, then lose a lawsuit over it, and then just keep on torturing people because, hey, he’s the president.
Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist, CFR fellow, former White House speech writer, and nominal Christian musters the view that the vice president’s strong stand in favor of illegally torturing people is “principled” which is, I guess, good for him.
So I’ve been reading the new Center for a New American Security outfit’s report on Iraq. The bad news is that the lynchpin of the whole thing is a — dum dum! — an intensified focus on training. The report keeps noting that it’s important that we not simply be creating more effective sectarian units prepared to wage the civil war of tomorrow, but it doesn’t have much to say about how their proposed revamping of the advisory mission would achieve this.
The good news is that in a first for reports on Iraq, CNAS acknowledges that their pony might not materialize and that we might need to fall back to their Plan B or Plan C (basically: run away). Similarly, even though Plan A involves a very extended large-scale U.S. military presence in Iraq we do have here deeply establishment-oriented people arguing that at some point (December 2012 in Plan A; early 2008 in Plan C) we should actually not have any more American troops should be genuinely out of Iraq.
Last, it should be said that the conceit of the report is that the Bush administration will take their advice seriously and begin the process of withdrawing troops and transition to a training mission this very summer. That’s a fun conceit, obviously, but equally obviously Bush doesn’t care — at all — about what these people think, what’s right for the country, what’s right for Iraq, what’s right for America’s soldiers, or anything else.
It would be much more productive to write reports addressed at people who matter. A bunch of people are running for president. They could use smart people to think about what they should do about Iraq starting the day after Election Day on the assumption that Bush just keeps running the country into the ground. There are also a bunch of members of congress who are in need of feasible methods for the legislative branch to use the rather crude tools at its disposal (mostly money and time limits) to change policy in a more constructive direction.