Today, however, is September 1. Labor Day is September 3. Is the following day going to be the start of a new marketing push for war with Iran? George Packer thinks it might be. Of course, things things aren’t written in stone. When Sam Gardiner published “The End of the Summer of Diplomacy” (PDF) in the fall of 2006, I found his arguments very convincing. And yet, despite a bunch of talk, we’ve gone a whole twelve months without a war with Iran. Was Gardiner wrong, or were Gardiner and those of us who agree with him that launching such a war would be a terrible mistake merely politically effective?
Steve Clemons brings some RUMINT regarding the possibility of a 2012 David Petraeus presidential campaign. This is something that strikes me as plausible if and only if my pessimism proves unfounded, and a Democrat takes office in 2009 who does withdraw American troops from Iraq. That would lay the groundwork for Petraeus to play the Hindenburg role in a stab-in-the-back campaign in 2012 (see, I’m not comparing my political foes to Nazis just to, um, soft-on-Nazism nationalists) in case anything sufficiently bad happens in the world to make such ex post facto carping compelling.
It does seem to me that based on the experiences over the past 15 years or so with Colin Powell and Wesley Clark that something about the modern officer’s corps generates high-level personnel who don’t really have the right personalities to be effective in politics. Powell unsuitability for a major political role didn’t, of course, actually stop him from becoming Secretary of State, but it does seem like a cautionary example to me. On the other hand, even if Petraeus hasn’t been very successful at improving conditions on the ground in Iraq, it’s undeniable that he’s turned MNF Iraq into a formidable PR machine reminiscent of its 2003 condition despite having fallen into considerable disrepair over the years.
At any rate, I suppose that’s enough idle speculation for now, but it’s certainly something to chew on.
Robert Farley recounts an interesting-if-depressing American Political Science Association panel discussion on the future of Iraq policy. I think my perspective is closest to John Mearsheimer’s (and, no, this has nothing in particular to do with the Jews):
John Mearsheimer was very direct and deeply pessimistic. Ten years ago, I doubt I would have believed that Mearsheimer’s critique of US foreign policy would essentially mirror a standard leftist perspective. There are differences, of course, but on Iraq Mearsheimer is making an argument that would fit very comfortably into the netroots. Mearsheimer argued that Iraq has been and will continue to be a disaster, but that because of domestic politics and institutional dynamics we’ll still be there in five years and beyond. The stab-in-the-back narrative that’s being prepared by the Republican Party will succeed in scaring a Democratic president and Democratic congress from taking any decisive steps to end the war. At the same time, the senior theater leadership in the armed forces are committed to not losing, due to their perception of the institutional disaster that resulted from the Vietnam War.
This is what happens, it seems, when realists discover domestic politics as an influence on foreign policy. That said, the fault to a large extent lies with ourselves. We’re right now in the midst of a presidential primary campaign which is when, as we all know, politicians need to “pander” to the insidious liberal base. And thus far, activists and voters alike are signaling that they’re willing — eager, even — to be tricked by wannabe nominees rather than hold them accountable. If the Democratic primary electorate is happy to take statements about “ending the war” or “withdrawing combat troops” at face value even when they’re immediately followed by quiet reassurances that troops will stay in Iraq for counterterrorism (i.e., combat), training (i.e., combat), and force protection (i.e., combat) then it really is hard to see where pressure to end the war is supposed to come from.
“Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend,” by the Mr. T Experience. I’d totally forgotten about this one. Here’s an “unofficial” video: