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November 29, 2005

Iraq: A Facsimile of a Decent Interval
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

In an act of head-spinning revisionism, just two weeks after his Administration vilified John Murtha for wanting to cut and run, tomorrow night Bush will evidently begin preparing the groundwork for withdrawal.  My read is that having concluded that an actual decent interval may prove elusive, the Administration is now exploring alternatives to avoid the appearance that US withdrawal precipitates immediate Iraqi collapse. 

One such measure that Heather discussed last week may involve getting the Iraqis themselves to demand the US's departure.  That way the Administration can say that since the Iraqis told us they could manage without us, we left honorably having no reason to suspect our going would set off out-and-out civil war.   

But NY Times Baghdad Bureau Chief John Burns said last night on Charlie Rose that American commanders are telling incoming troops the following:  when asked whether they want the US to leave Iraqis overwhelmingly say yes, but when asked whether they want us to leave now, the consensus is no.   I don't know if that's true (cannot find any opinion polls to back it up), but we will need to listen carefully to what Iraqis themselves are really saying about the timeline for the US presence.   Progressives and the press need to poke behind official statements.

A second aspect of the strategy involves identifying external indicators that purport to support the potential for a decent interval, like a functioning Iraqi army and peaceful elections on December 15.  Bush apparently intends to make these a focus of his remarks tomorrow night, pointing out the positive and ignoring assessments like this by Toby Dodge of the International Institute for Strategic Studies:

"It's increasingly becoming a war of all against all, with no rules . . . The Iraqi security forces themselves are becoming just another of the players, and if they owe allegiance to anything, it's to their commanders or communities, and not remotely to the state itself."

Even if the calm doesn't hold, the Administration wants enough to point to in order to credibly argue that when they made the decision to pull out, all signs suggested that Iraq would cohere.

Here's where I part ways with Fred Kaplan's otherwise piercing analysis.  He thinks that by starting to draw-down Bush can pull off a political "win-win."  But in light of this fast-evolving Administration strategy, John Murtha did progressives more help than he knew. 

Because of Murtha, the American public is starkly aware of  two competing interpretations of a possible pullout:  Murtha's notion that Iraq is spinning downward but there's nothing more we can do, and Bush's vision that Iraq is turning a corner.   So if we do pull back, Bush's credibility will lie in the hands of the Iraqi insurgency, a force that not even Karl Rove can manipulate.

So the political fates are inextricably entwined with Iraq's fate.  And, right now, Iraq's fate isn't looking good.


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Iraq: A Facsimile: put another way is a false impression- an artifice constructed to do convey one position while doing something else. The sad part of it all however is that the only ones that are convinced or believe in the facsimile are the "spin-masters" and No One Else...... We are reviving the ole " Peace with Honor" showtime (again).

...we will need to listen carefully to what Iraqis themselves are really saying about the timeline for the US presence.

Just last month the British military did a poll which showed:

1) 82 per cent of Iraqis are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

2) less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

3) 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation

Earlier this year, just before the election, a Zogby poll claimed that 82% of of Sunni Arabs 69% of Shiites "also favor U.S. forces withdrawing either immediately or after an elected government is in place."

In April 2004, a Gallup poll claimed that 75% of Shiites, 61% of Sunnis, and 65% of Kurds(!) wanted us to leave immediately -- meaning by the summer of 2004 at least.

So there you have what the Iraqis themselves are saying about a timeline for withdrawal. Is anybody listening?

Very little "head spinning" is required to oppose Mutha's call "to immediately redeploy U.S. troops." Otherwise, your piece is spot on. Iraq is the locus of political outcomes for both parties. The Democratic strategy is to convince the voting public that wars ought to be fought on timetables, and deterministic plans.

Republicans should explain the true, chaotic nature of war: in war one must accomplish only the simplest things, but the simplest things are very difficult. Why? Because chance, uncertainty and the will of the enemy combine to create a terrible friction that blinds and impedes everything. War is opportunistic, not deterministic, and opportunities often take time to develop.

At bottom, we have competing philosophies of diplomacy and war. The Republicans need to get into the debate.

The central reason to have a deterministic timetable to get out of iraq is that Bush is a liar and he will not keep his promises.

If he wants to keep our army in iraq for the next three years, he'll say anything at all to keep his Republican majorities in the legislature, and then keep lying for the next 2 years after that.

If we want out of iraq within the next 3 years, we need a timetable to force on Bush. Not because we think we can win the war on a timetable, but because it's already lost and we want to limit the number of years Bush can keep pouring lives and money into his fantasy.

Obviously, if the hope is to actually win the war then the first step has to be to get rid of Bush and Cheney (maybe they could both take medical discharges?) and replace Rumsfeld, and then look for a winning strategy. Barring that, we need to pull out and rebuild our military.

Obviously, if the hope is to actually win the war then the first step has to be to get rid of Bush and Cheney (maybe they could both take medical discharges?) and replace Rumsfeld, and then look for a winning strategy. Barring that, we need to pull out and rebuild our military.

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