Democracy Arsenal

« Live-Blogging a State Dinner: Color Me Jalouse | Main | Saudi Arabia and the Autocracy-Terrorism Link »

November 11, 2007

Kahl and Katulis
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There is an intense debate going on at Abu Aardvark between Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress and Colin Kahl from the Center for New American Security (here, here, here).  I absolutely recommend it to everyone.  This is probably the most representative exchange of the two schools of thought within Democratic foreign policy circles on what we should do on Iraq and it is being argued by two people who were instrumental in coming up with the proposals (Strategic Reset and Phased Transition).  These ideas represent the intellectual backbones for most of the proposals being made by members of Congress and Presidential candidates, much as Fred Kagan’s plan at AEI was the backbone for the President’s surge (Although I do think that even among the VSP community Katulis's proposals are more popular). 

It should come as no surprise that I fall in on the Katulis side and believe that a more immediate withdrawal is necessary.  The problem with Kahl’s plan is that for it to work a tremendous amount would have to go miraculously well.  If it doesn’t we will have wasted more American blood and treasure, still have 60K-80K American troops in Iraq and will not have gotten around to addressing other national priorities.  For Katulis’s plan to work, everything will also have to go miraculously well.  The difference is that if it fails we won’t have American troops in Iraq and will be in a better situation to try and get back to other security priorities such as Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, etc…

There’s also a political question here.  As Barry Posen recently noted, the Center for New American Security proposal for Iraq offers no strategic choice to the American public.  Democratic candidates that flirt with the vague ideas proposed by Kahl are risking making the same mistakes made in 2002 and 2004 on national security – offering hair splitting difference on policy but no real strategic choice or contrast to Republicans.  With the American public’s opposition to the Iraq war at an all-time high, the idea of offering a narrow plan not dissimilar to the policy already being pursued by the Bush administration – one which Kahl admits does not have a high probability of success – is politically tone deaf.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Kahl and Katulis:


Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Guest Contributors
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use