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.