With President Bush determined to run out the clock and hand off the failing course in Iraq to his successor, progressives have been playing into the strategy by drifting away from the core principle that a timetable for redeployment best serves America’s national security interests.
A new Center for American Progress Action Fund strategy memo, authored by John Podesta, Brian Katulis, and Lawrence Korb, warns that — heading into 2008 — progressives are at risk of “drifting themselves into offering only a vague and muddled vision” for the future course in Iraq, rather than providing the “clear alternative” that is needed.
Conservatives are avoiding Iraq and increasingly beating the war drums against Iran, believing “that they fare well politically when they play to fear rather than reason.” With casualty rates declining in Iraq, progressives have lapsed into complacency, losing sight of the fact that Bush’s course is further than ever from achieving the strategic goal of national reconciliation. The “strategic drift” that progressives are now unfortunately engaged in is being abetted by leading “foreign policy thinkers” and “progressive candidates”:
Several leading foreign policy thinkers and security institutes — some of the same ones who were wrong about going to war in Iraq in the first place and wrong about how to deal with the war’s first four years — have helped build the case that aided the country’s slide into strategic drift. Instead of offering plans that clarify the current drift, they have perpetuated it by triangulating against supposedly “irresponsible” withdrawal plans. Just as conservatives in Congress have done, they have failed to question the flawed premises at the heart of the administration’s Iraq strategy.
Some progressive candidates have defaulted to policies of strategic drift because of legitimate fears about what might happen in Iraq, focused on three main concerns: terrorist sanctuaries, regional war, and humanitarian catastrophe. Yet ironically, strategic drift forestalls the actual hard work needed to avoid these potential dangers and does little or nothing to prevent them. Keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq until the end of the next presidential term not only serves to prolong these problems but also creates new ones.
“Progressives should start with a firm statement that America will undertake a strategic phased redeployment of its troops in a defined period of time,” the memo says. Without taking such a definitive stand, progressives risk drifting along with a policy that will have “severe consequences” for America’s security.
In addition to boldly standing up for redeployment, the memo urges three practical steps that should taken to stem the slide into strategic drift: 1) limit the 2008 supplemental funding request, 2) continue stressing military readiness, and 3) continue advocating for a diplomatic surge.
Read the full memo here.
UPDATE: Ilan Golberberg writes, “It’s Iraq Stupid.”