Liberal hawkery has gone into abeyance these past few months, and the large wave of victories by Democrats riding anti-war sentiment might have pushed them all into permanent hiding, but no — Jeffrey Herf comes along to explain that continuing the war is vital because it’s all about oil:
In this fall’s elections, many Democrats have run hard against the war in Iraq. Some have called for fixed timetables for withdrawal. It is important, therefore, for liberals to restate what is at stake in the war’s outcome. Unlike the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq is being fought over a country that is vital, not peripheral, to U.S. interests. Unlike the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq is being fought over a country that is vital, not peripheral, to U.S. interests. The importance of oil to the world’s economy, the potential for terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and the ideological goals of radical Islam mean that the consequences of failure in Iraq are much greater than they were in Vietnam. . . .
First, even with the greenest policies in place, the world economy will run on oil for some time to come. Preventing domination of the region by radical Islamists is therefore a vital interest of the United States and all oil dependent nations.
These oil concerns strike me as perpetually overblown. It’s true that the American economy is fairly dependent on the continued flow of exports from the Middle East onto world markets. Middle Eastern economies, however, are much more dependent on the same. Deploying an “oil weapon” against the United States would be as if I cut off my left arm to start wielding it as a club. The real problem here, though, as it’s been with liberal hawk commentary on Iraq for years now is that Herf can’t grapple with the actual reason people want to withdraw from Iraq: We don’t believe the mission has any prospects for success. He goes on and on about the bad things that may well flow from withdrawal. He doesn’t say anything, however, about why continuing in Iraq might make things better. I heartily agree that it would be excellent to avoid a civil war in Iraq, to stabilize the country, to build a democracy, to do whatever. The problem is that we can’t do it.
The most telling line in the article, however, is this: “A regional peace conference would necessarily involve countries, namely Iran and Syria, that are deeply antagonistic to the United States and have no interest in a balanced agreement among the factions in Iraq.” Whether or not folks feel like saying so in a straightforward way, the logical conclusion of this sort of thinking is not only that we can’t withdraw from Iraq, but that we need to wade deeper into the mess and engage in a wider regional war. If it’s really the case that we can’t conduct diplomacy with Syria and Iran aimed at reconciliation of our interests, then there’s no choice but to push the fight forward. That’s daft, of course, but that’s what continued domination of the political landscape by peopl with the Herf/Bush worldview will bring.