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January 05, 2008

Republican Debate Live Blogging
Posted by Shadi Hamid

[8:33] Ok, I'm done. That was fun, sort of.

[8:31] Huckabee wants "vertical" politics, not "horizontal" politics. I kind of like that.

[8:27] McCain calls it "radical Islamic extremism." Sounds clunky. If it's "extremism," doesn't that, by definition, mean it's "radical"?

[8:26] Fred Thompson: "They wanna take us down the road of the welfare state." Oh, God forbid!

[8:25] I think Romney just said "change" 20 times in like 1 minute.

[8:24] "If you think healthcare's expensive now, just wait until it's free." Huh? Translator please.

[8:22] Is it just me or is McCain getting in the habit of giving whoever's talking bad looks?

[8:16] Reagan gave amnesty?

[8:15] (I'm back). I've only watched like 10 minutes of this debate, and I've already heard Giuliani mention "Reagan" twice.

[7:51] Ok, watching this is getting me hungry.

[7:49] Romney is talking sense on healthcare. Wow, he actually sounds smart. And, he's probably the only one on the stage who got something done on the issue. "Get everyone insured in a freemarket way" (something along those lines). Does this mean Romney is pro-universal healthcare?

[7:48] Stop hating on Canada!

[7:43] Ron Paul: "If they don't listen to us, we bomb them." Yea, that's actually kind of how our foreign policy works now. Paul is off his rocker, but I have to say, it's really great that someone like him actually gets a chance to communicate his views to such a large audience. I like how he proposes we follow the "golden rule" in our foreign policy. Treat others the way we'd like to be treated. Pretty simple, right? Not for Republicans apparently.

[7:42] Why is Mitt Romney smiling at Fred Thompson?

[7:36 PM] Wait, is Rudy still calling it "the Islamic Terrorists' War against Us"? Every time I hear it, I gasp in disbelief at its stupidity and clunkiness. Doesn't Rudy have advisers for a reason?

[7:34 PM] John McCain scares me. At the same time, he's coming off quite "sober" tonight. A "serious man for serious times." Or is that Fred Thompson?

Achieving Change in Washington
Posted by Michael Cohen

Greetings from Peterborough, New Hampshire! Today, I had the unique privilege of seeing my first actual Gravel supporter. It was a heady moment - I'll tell you, the things you see when you leave the big city! Actually I stumbled upon a John McCain rally that appeared to be pretty well attended; at the very least he seemed to attract a good number of Paul supporters, whose signs are everywhere. Based on signage alone you'd think that guy was winning up here.

So I've been thinking a bit about the reluctance among many progressives to get on board the Obama bandwagon. One of the arguments you hear is that Obama's hope message won’t be able to overcome entrenched GOP and corporate opposition to progressive policies. But the fact is, the greatest impediment to progressive reform is not corporate greed, it’s partisan gridlock.

The more Americans look to Washington and see nothing getting accomplished, the more it weakens their confidence in progressive government. People throw up their hands and say “Washington can’t do anything” and so the next progressive politician who calls for a government solution to a pressing national issue gets tuned out.

This is a lesson that Republicans understand all too well; and it’s a tactic they used to brilliant effect in 1993 and 1994 and continue to utilize today. For the GOP and in particular small government conservatives, obstructionism is smart politics. But to be effective they need a bogeyman; someone to demonize; someone who makes activist government seem like a threat. Indeed when Clinton won 43% in the 1992, it was much easier for the GOP to oppose everything (which they did). And the resulting bloodbath in November 1994 was as much as response to anger at Washington as it was a rejection of activist government. Unfortunately, for Dems revulsion over the former generally leads to opposition toward the former.

But after Clinton won re-election in 1996 and the GOP had taken a serious hit because of the government shutdown, it became far more difficult for the GOP to be a knee jerk opposition party.  Indeed, progressives may hate to admit it, but Clinton’s victory in 1996 and his subsequent approach to governing may have made the most effective case for activist government (albeit not on the scale of the New Deal or Great Society) in two generations. It’s small wonder the George Bush ran in 2000 on a platform of compassionate conservatism that actually criticized Congressional Republicans for knee jerk opposition to government spending.

This brings us to the present. If Hillary is elected; or even if a populist like Edwards wins, it’s not hard to see the GOP making that case to their base (as well as disenchanted voters) that they must oppose everything he or she does, particularly if it is a nasty election.  Indeed, an Edwards us vs. them victory would seem to be a virtual recipe for more gridlock in Washington. Whether we like it or not, providing the GOP with fodder to oppose Democrats is a recipe for disaster for Dems.

But if Obama wins, that’s going to be a much harder to case to make. Indeed, if he were to win on a message of political unity and change; the GOP would take a very real risk of antagonizing independent voters.  This would rebrand the party as a national scold, opposing anything that smacks of activist government. Indeed, as was the case in the 40s and 50s, the party would likely see a tactical need to find some areas of compromise with Democrats. It's going to be very difficult for the GOP to engage in obstructionism if Obama were to win on a mandate for change.

Such a shifting of the political winds could potentially provide a unique opportunity for a new spirit of activist government. Again, I don’t think we’re ever going to see an activist call on par with the 1930s or 1960s (which were fairly unique moments in American history), but we could see a new burst of energy for say dealing with health care, a new more conservation-led approach to the nation’s energy needs and certainly a more conciliatory and progressive approach to foreign policy. These would be significant accomplishments and if even on a small level it increased confidence in government it would a go long way toward changing people’s perspectives on progressive government.

Us vs. them political messages – even if aimed at familiar progressive bogeyman – will actually do more damage to progressive politics over the long run. National unity and post-partisan politics may seem like a cliché, but it’s also the best hope for activist government.

January 04, 2008

What Might a Bipartisan Foreign Policy Look Like
Posted by David Shorr

Since I was prime mover behind this just-released bipartisan consensus statement, I'll let everyone read it and refrain from offering comment until after it provokes any significant reactions. The drafters / signers (incl. Hurlburt, Nossel, and Katulis) are listed at the end.

GOP Disarray
Posted by Michael Cohen

Maybe it's just me, but the GOP results last night in Iowa were pretty damn screwy. Consider this:

The Big Winner: The guy (John McCain) who finished fourth behind the laziest man in American politics.

The Big Loser: The guy who finished second.

As for the actual winner of the caucus, Huckabee, no one seems to think he can win and on Intrade he's trading 12 points behind the guy who finished 6th.

Oh yeah, the guy everyone thought was the frontrunner a few months ago; he finished 6th behind the crazy libertarian.

For the first (and last) time in my life, I write these words - Thank you Karl Rove!

What Did We Learn About the Iowa Caucuses
Posted by David Shorr

Now that we Caucus-goers have spoken, what do the results tell us about the recipe for victory here in Iowa? First, to paraphrase Woody Allen, it's all about showing up. Pollsters struggle with finding samples that are reflective of who will actually take part on caucus night, and we see that the polls predicting a tight Democratic race didn't do a very good job. Hat tip to The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll for foreseeing Obama's strength, in significant part by predicting large participation by independents. All due credit also to a colleague who said "I trust the Des Moines Register when it comes to understanding Iowans." For my own part, I only went so far as predicting that a decisive Obama victory was possible, not probable. (I was a little more decisive in predicting that the evening would be decisive - I just didn't believe the candidates would bunch up within a few points of each other).

Second, timing. Caucus goers really do tend to break one way or the other in the final weeks and days -- which proved true for both Obama and Huckabee. In that way, 2008 was like 2004, when Kerry won a lot of support at the end of the run-up. Conversely, Dean peaked too early.

Third, you have to ask. Most of you know Tip O'Neill's classic anecdote about his longtime neighbor who he was sure voted for him in a tough defeat. She didn't, she told Tip, because "you didn't ask." Giuliani suffered the consequences of not playing in Iowa. Somehow McCain paid less of a price, perhaps because he had some of that late-breaking momentum. I'm not sure Hillary Clinton really got into the retail politics mode. The cliche is that Iowans like to 'kick the tires,' and I don't know whether we had enough exposure to her to give us that chance.

As promised, this post is a dry analysis of what it takes to win here. Any further substantive content are bound to be colored by my own personal leanings. I'll get back to meaty foreign policy stuff very soon, but first a few final words as a patriotic Iowan. Many of you are resentful of the first-in-the-nation role that our small (and largely white) state plays. I can only respond that we do take treat this very seriously as a sacred trust and put a lot of effort into vetting the candidates. Now you have our advice - do what you will with it. Meanwhile, thanks particularly to all of those who came into our state to be involved.

Role of Iran in Iraq and the Region
Posted by Shawn Brimley

Happy New Year all. Marc Lynch has a great piece on Iran in the Christian Science Monitor today which argues that the United States is misreading the nature of Arab Gulf states perceptions of the rising regional power.

The Gulf has moved away from American arguments for isolating Iran. American policymakers need to do the same.

The states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are accommodating themselves to Iran's growing weight in the region's politics.

... Even in Iraq, fears of a Saudi-Iranian proxy war have given way to hints of an emerging modus vivendi. Gulf regimes remain hostile to the pro-Iranian Iraqi government. But instead of trying to replace its Shiite leader, Nouri al-Maliki, they now seem satisfied that the rise of the Sunni "Awakenings" – US-backed neighborhood councils that have begun fighting Al Qaeda – will check Iranian ambitions. Saudi and Iranian clients in Iraq even seem to be carving out zones of influence, as suggested by recent talks between the Sunni Anbar Salvation Council and the Shiite Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

According to Alissa Rubin of the New York Times, U.S. military leaders are seeing Iran shift their posture toward a more cautious stance.

Iran appears to have responded to demands that it halt the flow of weapons and financial support to Iraqi insurgents, the American military has said, reducing the number of attacks on American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

Finally, on the growing links between Iraq and Iran see this great piece on the growing role of Iran in helping to revitalize Najaf.

My impression is that while the regional dynamics may be shifting in fundamental ways, the situation in Iraq is indicative of players engaging principally in a holding pattern while the U.S. military continues with the un-surge.   

Obama's Speech
Posted by Michael Cohen

Ok, I know I'm in the tank for Obama already, but the speech he gave last night was simply extraordinary. One of the best campaign speeches I've ever heard. Can you imagine being a voter who doesn't know much about Obama seeing that performance? He just seemed so damn presidential. Hard to believe three years ago he was a State Senator from Illinois. Anyone who says that Obama doesn't have the experience to be President, I would say "watch this speech." It was his introduction to millions of Americans who may know little about him. He was under enormous pressure to do well - and the guy hit one out of the park.

If he wins this thing I think we'll all look back at that speech as the moment he clinched it.

The speech worked because it did all the things that a great campaign address should do. It provided voters with a truly hopeful and inspiring vision for the future, which I can't say either Edwards or Clinton provided. Listening to Obama one got a real sense that if he wins we're on the verge of genuine political change in this country. Along those lines, it was one of most unifying message you're ever likely to hear from a presidential candidate. For months people have been arguing that Obama's problem is that he's not angry enough; that he is not energizing pissed off Democrats who hate Bush. Yesterday, he proved how silly that argument really is. There was not a note of rancor in that speech; no us vs. them arguments and the only real strawman he provided was one sure to energize plenty of Americans - the status quo.

But above all, Obama was able to cast his victory in terms far larger then himself. Listening to Obama speak one got the sense that this win was a vote for change as opposed to simply being a vote for Barack Obama. That's not easy to do, and I walked away from the speech feeling good about Obama, but better about America. This is movement politics at its best and frankly not since maybe Reagan in 1980 have I seen someone do it as well as Obama did last night.

And most of all I loved the story Obama told about a Cedar Rapids woman working her way through college, but who "still believes this county will give her a chance to live out her dreams." Call it cheesy, but if there is one idea that runs through this country it's that of the American Dream; the notion that any American can, through hard work and determination, achieve their dreams. For us jaded "very, serious people" it may seem like a cliche, but for millions of Americans it's how they view their country and its the most basic American value. And frankly unlike John Edwards, who in his concession continued his assault on corporate greed and argued that the deck was stacked against the middle class, Obama seems to understand, like Bill Clinton did in 1992, that people want to "believe in hope."

Of course, lots of things can happen between now and Election Day; and I would certainly be loath to count out Hillary Clinton, but last night was pretty special - and that was one damn good speech.

Update (From Ilan):   Just thought we should actually add video of the speech to this post

January 03, 2008

McCain on Iraq...100 years and counting
Posted by Moira Whelan

As everyone eyes Iowa, a late breaking development from the Straight Talk Express. McCain was just in a Q&A with reporters, and essentially said he'd be good with occupying Iraq for 100 years. Lets see how long the McCain "surge" lasts...

Here's the back and forth, footage to follow:

Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years -- " (cut off by McCain)

McCain: "Make it a hundred."

Q: "Is that ..." (cut off)

McCain: "We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years.  We've been in South Korea 50 years or so.  That would be fine with me.  As long as Americans ..."

Q: [tries to say something]

McCain: "As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

Update:   Here is the footage...and FYI...that's Joe Lieberman on stage with him.


John Edwards Misleading Rhetoric
Posted by Michael Cohen

Yesterday, I was having a debate with an Edwards supporter about what I considered his demagogic and somewhat dishonest populist campaign for the White House. Today's New York Times provides a good example of what drew me to these conclusions. In responding to oil prices hitting $100 a barrel yesterday, Edwards had this comment:

Today’s report that the price of oil has reached $100 a barrel is just another example of how corporate greed is squeezing the middle class.

Now, this sort of anti-corporate rhetoric has been front and center in Edwards campaign, but this quote is a perfect example of why this approach (attacking corporate America as the root of all the middle class's problems) is so dishonest.

The notion that corporate greed is responsible for rising oil prices is simply untrue. Indeed, the specific reason for Wednesday's price spike had nothing to do with corporate profits:

The immediate impetus for Wednesday’s rise in oil prices appeared to arise from an attack by rebels in the Nigerian oil center of Port Harcourt and rough weather in the Gulf of Mexico that had slowed Mexican oil exports.

As Edwards likely well knows, the confluence of factors that influence global oil prices is so much more complex then this flippant characterization. Supply and demand, political instability in oil producing nations, the worsening U.S. dollar - all of these factors played a role in the recent increases oil prices. If corporate greed is a factor, it is a pretty minor one.

But shorthand attacks on "corporate greed" have become Edwards bread and butter. Here he is on health care:

The truth is, the American health care system is broken because wealthy health insurance corporations and their lobbyists have rigged the system against the American people.

Really? So it has nothing to do with the failure of policymakers to pass more comprehensive health care legislation? Does Edwards believe that the recent children's health insurance plan failed because health insurance companies "rigged the system" even though they all supported the measure? I wonder if Edwards would lay any responsibility for problems in the health care system on those medical malpractice lawsuits, with which he is certainly quite familiar.

Now to be sure I am not absenting health insurance companies for their responsibility
in America's health care crisis. And, I am certainly not defending oil companies. But, the larger point is that when it comes to issues like higher oil prices or America's 47.5 million uninsured there is no single villain and no single responsible party. What's even sadder is that earlier in his campaign, Edwards was extolling the virtues of conservation and personal sacrifice, but apparently with the populist approach bearing fruit in Iowa he's going to play it to the hilt.

To reduce such serious public policy issues to us vs. them arguments is not only dishonest and divisive, it's disrespectful to the electorate. Edwards makes himself out to be the courageous voice standing up against corporate greed, when in reality he is engaging in the politics of cowardice by playing on the anger and fears of voters all the while reducing serious and complicated policy issues to attack politics.

This is a politician who tells voters that health insurance companies and drug companies won't even get a seat at the table in discussions on health care reform.  Does he really believe that excluding companies that provide health care coverage to well over 100 million Americans is going to bring a lasting policy solution. This is the politics of delusion!

John Edwards strikes me as a generally honorable guy, who clearly has glommed on to what he believes is an effective political strategy in a tough three person race. But it deserves to lose at the polls and I hope tonight it does.

More Bottoms Up
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

There are two pieces today that point out what happens after you successfully co-opt local actors and bring them in to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq.  As long as there is a common enemy, it works.  But once the enemy is eliminated, things start to break down and the groups splinter.  Without a comprehensive political strategy that brings these groups together and forces them towards a political agreement on how they might share power, all the United States is doing is putting its finger in the dam.

In Diyala, the Shi'a Security Forces still doesn't trust the Sunnis and believe that these tribal movements are likely to turn against the central government.  This could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the Shi'a dominated Iraqi Security forces are in fact alienating the "Concerned Local Citizens" (i.e. the Sunnis).  Eventually this could will likely encourage Sunni forces to turn against the Shi'a central government.

But Awakening Council members, often lightly armed and poorly trained, say Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is not their only adversary in Diyala. Iraqi security forces remain distrustful of the former insurgents, and last week staged a raid with American forces against one of their headquarters in the town of Buhruz. The Iraqi police said the tribesmen killed a Shiite hostage during the raid and fired at the officers. United States helicopters returned fire and killed at least 10 council members.

An Iraqi police brigadier, Kudhair Tamimi, acknowledged that many Sunni tribesmen had sacrificed their lives fighting the insurgents in Diyala, but said he still doubted their loyalty and questioned the wisdom of allowing them to serve in the Iraqi security forces...

Brigadier Tamimi said that some Awakening Council members continued to occupy dozens of Shiite family homes and were still involved in the kidnappings and murders of Shiites in Diyala.

But Abu Talib, an Awakening Council leader in southern Baquba, the capital of Diyala, said that continued insurgent attacks and lukewarm support from the Iraqi security forces were alienating his followers and could potentially push them back into the insurgency.

“We have had many martyrs, but nobody cares about them,” he said. “There is no recruitment of the Awakening Councils into the Iraqi security forces, and this will destroy the security situation in Baquba, because we now protect most of the neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, in Anbar, we see what happens once the immediate and common enemy is eliminated and people turn back to governing.  Now, that Al Qaeda in Iraq has been pushed out of Anbar, we get this:

As violence has faded, an argument has been raging over who really speaks for Iraq's Sunni Arab minority: the province's largely secular and fiercely independent tribal leaders, who resisted the U.S. invasion, or the main Sunni political party, an Islamist group led by former exiles who cooperated with the Americans from the start...

Now, the sheiks say, it's payback time. They want more schools, better healthcare, clean water and reliable electricity for their war-ravaged province. They want jobs for their followers. And above all, they want a stake in government for their Iraqi Awakening Conference movement...

Saleh Mutlak, who heads a rival Sunni political group that has joined forces with the Islamic Party in parliament, said the sheiks asked him to convey a message to his allies.

"Unless there is a solution . . . then we will use our guns to displace the Islamic Party from Anbar," he quoted the sheiks as telling him.

This is what happens when you mistake short-term tactical success for long-term strategic progress.

January 02, 2008

The Good VSPs on Pakistan
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So I'm flipping through the television this evening and who do I find on CSPAN?  Mike O'Hanlon as a panelist on an AEI panel on Pakistan...  Seriously?  So here's a good list of people who you should be reading and listening to about Pakistan.  These are people who have actually been dealing with this region of the world for years. 

Ambassador Karl (Rick) Inderfurth,  Ambassador Teresita SchaefferStephen Cohen, and Bruce Reidel are all great sources.     There are more, but this is a good start.

That Wacky Wacky Kristol
Posted by Michael Cohen

Happy New Year to all Democracy Arsenal readers! Before we let 2007 get away from us, a news story fell through the cracks in the week between Xmas and New Year's that really merits some greater attention: The New York Times has hired Bill Kristol to write for its op-ed page.

When I saw this initially, I thought it was a joke. It's bad enough that we have the partisan hackery of Charles Krauthammer staining the op-ed pages of the Washington Post, but Bill Kristol! Honestly, has this guy ever been right about anything?

Glenn Greenwald (a person with whom I pretty much never agree and who has written a rather loathsome post today absurdly arguing that Mike Bloomberg "is basically just Rudy Giuliani with a billion or two dollars to spend to alter the election") has done a nice job of compiling just some of Kristol's more absurd pronouncements over the past several years. Here are a few of his greatest hits:

April 28, 2003:

The United States committed itself to defeating terror around the world. We committed ourselves to reshaping the Middle East, so the region would no longer be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction. The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states.

March 7, 2005:

Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress.

April 4, 2006:

What was striking, following the mosque bombing, was the evidence of Iraq's underlying stability in the face of attempts to undermine it. The country's vital institutions seem to have grown strong enough to withstand even the provocation of the bombing of the golden mosque.

What is most striking about each of these quotes is not simply how wrong they are, but how clearly they are driven by crass political arguments. Does Bill Kristol have any goal besides carrying water for the Bush Administration and attacking Democrats? It's hard to glean any other rationale for his existence then meeting these two goals. If so, what is he doing on the op-ed page of any major newspaper that strives for objectivity, no less the New York Times? Will Times' readers be informed by Kristol's adulation of George Bush and contempt for Democrats as personified by this piece from July 2007 - "Why Bush Will Be A Winner," which contained these informative and thought-provoking nuggets:

Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001 and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth. His opponents predicted dire consequences. But the president was overwhelmingly right.

What about terrorism? Apart from Iraq, there has been less of it, here and abroad, than many experts predicted on Sept. 12, 2001. So Bush and Vice President Cheney probably are doing some important things right. 

Even if you're a judicial progressive, you have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive judges (well, you don't have to admit it -- but deep down, you know it).

And what happens when voters realize in November 2008 that, if they choose a Democrat for president, they'll also get a Democratic Congress and therefore liberal Supreme Court justices? Many Americans will recoil from the prospect of being governed by an unchecked triumvirate of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. So the chances of a Republican winning the presidency in 2008 aren't bad.

With marvelous insights like these it's only a wonder that Kristol wasn't hired sooner.

What's even more galling about this decision is that there are so many wonderful writers on the blogosphere today, both on the right, left and in the middle, that are writing interesting pieces on national and foreign affairs. And yet, when searching for a new columnist the NYT has turned to a partisan hack, who over the past five years has been consistently wrong in nearly everything he has said about not only the war in Iraq, but most policy issues on which he chooses to comment. Good choice Pinch!

At the very least, this will allow me to create a new regular column for Democracy Arsenal  readers - That Wacky, Wacky Kristol!

December 30, 2007

The Very Unserious Optimism of Ken Pollack and other VSP
Posted by Max Bergmann

The irony of those claiming to pursue a “responsible” course in Iraq is that their case for staying is rooted in an absurd level of optimism about what the U.S. can achieve. Ken Pollack’s latest piece in the New Republic is just the latest example. He writes:

The civil war in Northern Ireland is a good example. In the 1970s, the British, much like the Americans today, began emphasizing neighborhood security and de-emphasizing search-and-destroy missions. That made economic and political development plans possible in the '80s, which in turn produced national-level reconciliation talks in the '90s. It is worth remembering that Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were every bit as savage in their chauvinism as Moqtada Al Sadr and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in Iraq. They changed their tunes only after a years-long bottom-up approach showed their constituents that peace was possible--and threatened their leadership roles if they didn't pursue it seriously.

What is so baffling is that Pollack would use the Northern Ireland case in an argument for staying in Iraq.  In fact I have used the Northern Ireland case previously as an example for just how hard it is to resolve ethnic conflicts and how difficult if not impossible it will be to resolve the conflict in Iraq.

But Pollack does deserve credit for at least talking about a potential end game in Iraq. Most war supporters just talk about tactical improvements in violence numbers without making the connection to creating a long-term political solution. While Matt and others scoff at using Northern Ireland or Switzerland as a model for Iraq, the fact is that Ken is right about this. If Iraq is going to be stable it will have to create a system that replicates the ethnically based power-sharing systems (“consociational” systems in the academic phrasing) achieved in Northern Ireland, Switzerland, and Bosnia. The fact is that the dominant political division in Iraq is now ethnic/sectarian differences and therefore to create stability in Iraq the political system will have to emulate the power-sharing model of Northern Ireland. Anything less than a system that balances each sectarian group simply won’t work. So Pollack is right that for stability to happen in Iraq it would have to emulate the Northern Ireland or Swiss model.

But, and this is a very big but, the United States simply can’t achieve this in Iraq. In Northern Ireland despite the presence of significantly more troops, better intelligence, knowledge of the language, an understanding of the culture, the existence of western democratic traditions, phenomenal economic growth during the 1990s, and a regional peace process between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and with all of this it still took 35 years for peace and stability to be achieved!

35 years. And that is with conditions that no serious person could ever dream of for Iraq. So how exactly is staying in Iraq the responsible course for the United States in Iraq?

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