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September 21, 2004

Ignoring Iraq

My default position on Iraq for the next month and a half is a simple one. I'm ignoring it. Seems irresponsible, I know, but hear me out.

I could follow The Way of The Soiled Hawk, wherein each new story out of Iraq results in hand wringing and recriminations. In The Way of The Soiled Hawk, bonus points are awarded for the elegance of the pro-Kerry spin one imparts to each viewed-with-alarm article, as if Kerry had some concrete plan for Iraq beyond begging Fritz and Jacques for help.

"I will go to Korea," said Eisenhower.

"I will crawl to France," says Kerry.

It's not as if a coherent Democratic position on Iraq and the WoT is hard to develop. Hell, I can do it, and I'm practically Forrest Gump.

1.) One doesn't build a democracy on the cheap. Trying to do so is what's getting American soldiers killed. In Iraq, George Bush is saving dollars and spending lives.

2.) Fixing Iraq in the long term means more money and more troops in the short term. We send them now so we won't be sending even more later. George Bush has failed to do this. Terrorists fell free to kill Americans in Iraq because George Bush hasn't learned the lesson of Vietnam--half measures don't win wars. You can't blame him, though. It's not like he was there or anything.

This argument has the added bonus of being unexpected. There's not a Republican on the planet who expects to hear the "half-measures lost Vietnam" argument turned against them.

3.) Islamic terrorism is funded by Islamic oil revenues. As a country we, need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and as long as George Bush and his Saudi oil industry buddies are in control of the White House, that will not happen. A Democratic administration will raise CAFE standards to 30 mpg in the next four years, and require all government vehicles to meet those standards. We will slap a $2 per barrel import duty on foreign oil, every cent of which will go towards improving security at our ports. Oil from Iraq will not be subject to this duty.

The list could go on, but if John Kerry had just adopted just those three positions above two months ago his campaign wouldn't be in the trouble it is now. The problem with doing so is that, having developed a position, one is necessarily wedded to it, and the thought of stating a position and declaring "Here I stand," appears to be anathema to John Kerry on any issue, much less Iraq. Were we in Great Britain, the knock on Kerry would be that he stands for nothing but office.

The problem with The Way of The Soiled Hawk is two-fold. One is that it relies far to much on the reporting of the mainstream media, as the economics of that business force it to rely on the if-it-bleeds-it leads-stories with little in the way of follow-up or analysis. Two is that, as the Belmont Club points out, editorial content keeps sneaking into the stories.

The danger with uncritically accepting claims like "the insurgency is spreading" or "Bush is so desperate he is calling up the National Guard" is that it is not obviously supported by the geographical distribution of casualty figures, the rising number of enemy deaths, the drawdown in deployed forces nor does it account for changes in the force mix.

Funny, how a man who's ignoring Iraq seems to know what so many others think about it, isn't it? In truth, I'm not ignoring Iraq. What I am doing is refusing to allow the current round of events there to influence my long-term thinking, or my vote, because it seems obvious that the recent upsurge in violence there is aimed at doing just that.

Ask anyone if Al-Qaeda would like influence the US elections, and the default answer is "Of course." From that point reasonable people may disagree as to the aim of Al-Qaeda in doing so--there are decent arguments on both sides as to which candidate Zawahiri & Co. would prefer to have in the White House, but there's no disagreement on the group's desire to have an impact on the elections.

Given that, why would Al-Qaeda restrict its efforts to the U.S. mainland, especially when much the same effect can be had by undertaking attacks in Iraq? Such attacks are cheaper, operationally easier to carry out, relatively safer than actions planned for the U.S., and can pull from a large pool of potential recruits in the Sunni Triangle.

Imagine in the years to come, you happen across a history of the 2004 Presidential race containing this phrase--"In the three months before the 2004 elections, terrorist attacks in Iraq surged...." From such a vantage point, the reasoning behind the surge should be obvious--as they should be now. They're meant to influence your vote, and as such, should be ignored.

Won't you join me?

Postscript: The above is not meant to suggest that I'm happy with the current situation in Iraq. I listed the half-measures argument above not only because I think it could have been made by a Democratic candidate, but because I find it personally appealing. I find fault with the Bush administration not because we are in Iraq, but because I don't think we're doing enough to win Iraq.

Posted by Bigwig at September 21, 2004 12:08 PM | TrackBack
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Funny you should say, because today I noticed that I seem to have inadvertantly begun to ignore terrorist atrocities, there being so many of them. I expect our military to continue to shed terrorist blood for many years. What the enemy does is irrelevant. Our boys and their allies will kill them sooner or later.

The beheading of Mr. Armstrong, for example, is a personal tragedy to him and his loved ones. The event has no further significance.

Posted by: Jim at September 21, 2004 12:55 PM

> A Democratic administration will raise CAFE standards to 30 mpg in the next four years, and require all government vehicles to meet those standards.

No, it won't - the labor unions won't allow it.

> We will slap a $2 per barrel import duty on foreign oil, every cent of which will go towards improving security at our ports. Oil from Iraq will not be subject to this duty.

No, it won't, because it can't afford the resulting recession.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at September 21, 2004 02:32 PM

We do not to figure out how to take action in Iraq. The whole election in Iraq has frozen the situation.

Posted by: nels at September 21, 2004 03:18 PM

Also in support of Mr. Freeman, contra plank 3, raising gas prices deliberately would be political suicide - people are angry enough about gas prices when it's plausibly nobody in power's fault they're high (-er than before; ignoring the tax effects that already existed, of course).

When someone campaigns on "I'm going to make your life more expensive all around", that's not an easy sell. (And it prompts the "well, why not just keep buying oil, and kill the bloody Wahhabis, and overthrow the Saudi Entity?" reply.)

More importantly, 1 and 2 can't happen for a Democrat this year (if they could, Joe Lieberman would be candidate, and Bush would be in deep doo-doo vote-wise), because the party doesn't care about winning in Iraq or building democracy very much.

(Plank 2 also has backfire potential; if the Democrats argue along those lines, the (more neoconservative) Republicans can simply say "Great! We'll introduce the appropriations bill tomorrow. When can we have a vote?". For this to have any chance of working for a Democrat candidate, he would have had to have argued and voted it consistently from 2002 onward. I don't think anyone did so, except Lieberman.)

Posted by: Sigivald at September 21, 2004 03:36 PM

Guys. I'm not arguing for the positions--or whether they would work. I'm saying they're positions a Democrat could reasonably be expected to take were he serious about actually doing something.

Posted by: Bigwig at September 21, 2004 03:46 PM

> I'm saying they're positions a Democrat could reasonably be expected to take were he serious about actually doing something.

Except that I claim that no Democrat with a Dukakis' chance of being elected would take those positions, regardless of "seriousness". Why? A pol's first job is to get elected because a pol who doesn't have a prayer of being elected is Jesse Jackson and those positions are political suicide.

Johnson was the most recent national dem who could afford to dis the unions. The next one won't come along until the dems have collapsed.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at September 21, 2004 08:27 PM

Dude, Clinton and Gore talked about CAFE standards all the time. They just didn't do anything about them.

Talk is cheap, and that's all a political position is--talk. The point is to claim to have a plan long enough to get elected.

Posted by: Bigwig at September 21, 2004 11:42 PM

> Talk is cheap, and that's all a political position is--talk.


> A Democratic administration will raise CAFE standards to 30 mpg in the next four years, and require all government vehicles to meet those standards.

Not a chance.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at September 22, 2004 11:21 AM
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