Monday, March 27, 2006

A Grassroots Summit in Summit. Pt. 1: A Navel-Gazing Introduction.

I've spent the better part of a day and a half hand-wringing over how to deal with yesterday's Grassroots Summit at Akron-Summit Library. The problem for me is that, while I sit on the Executive Committee of Summit County Progressive Democrats an (under-credited) organizer of the event, I had problems with much of what was said from the podium.

The point of departure for me is the Iraq war. Because this is a state/local politics blog, I've managed for the most part to avoid talking about Iraq up to now. I'm generally not averse to taking on a contentious issue, but I'm hestitant to rain on SCPD's parade.

In the end I've decided: Screw it. After all, part of why I started this blog was to speak truth to my friends as well as my foes. In particular, I started in frustration at finding a political home as a progressive on domestic policy who is not a pacifist on foreign policy. I wrote up the event as it happened, so I have probably three or four posts worth of information. I'll break it up over the next couple of nights so as not to drop one mammoth post.

To kick it all off, indulge me in a brief essay on Iraq. Iraq obviously is a terribly complex situation, but one whose current status can be summarized simply: We're fucked. Currently, the two policy options on the table -- staying the course vs. withdrawal -- share the common attribute of each being worse than the other. Staying the course will fuel the insurgency, destabilize the country and eventually lead to a full-blown civil war. Leaving will embolden the insurgency, destabilize the country and eventually lead to a full-blown civil war.

To rewind the tape, I've always been far more appalled by the hash made of the invasion than the invasion itself. During the run-up to the war, I was ambivalent. On the one hand, I was encouraged by the renewed commitment to the sanctions regime. On the other, I was concerned about Hussein's intransigence and by the corrosive effect of the sanctions on Iraqi society. I thought eventually we would need to invade. On the other hand, I hoped that the administration would be able to forge a true international concensus. I had faith in Saddam's megalomania that, if we kept the heat on him, he would eventually defy the international community so blatantly that France and China would have no choice but let a Security Council resolution go through without a veto.

But that wasn't the point, was it? I don't believe that the Reason All Along was to establish permanent bases in Iraq or to enrich Halliburon. But I do think the Bush administration had some ideas about how to use the Iraq invasion to "prove" their theories of foreign policy, among them, their disdain for international institutions. The invasion, when it happened, felt like a race to get in before an international concensus formed. This is but one example of administration missteps, based on their preconceived notions, that have led to the clusterfuck that now afflicts us all.

I don't pretend to have an answer for Iraq and am deeply suspicious of anyone who does. But I have a real problem with people on the anti-war left who not only criticize the Iraq war, but appear to pretend that radical jihadists can be disarmed with love. To foreshadow the last chapter, that was the main problem I had yesterday.


54cermak said...

But the problem in Iraq was never with radical jihadists (though its starting to be). I am not a foreign policy pacifist, but I was opposed to this war from the start because it was unnecessary and unrelated to the true threats we face from the radicals.

Jill said...

Honest, Pho, honest.

Pounder said...

Scott, I do not think there is only 2 options, stay or go - i think that is a rhetorical strawman that simplifies the options and is intended to by the GOP so that doing nothing seems like the best approach.

If you read Murthas plan it is neither stay or go. it isnt perfect but it is better than the straw man options presented.

Otherwise i am with you all the way - we're fucked. I am alos more appaled by the incompetence than i was by the invasion itself.

bilcal said...


1) Who exactly on the "anti-war left" ever argued that radical jihadists could be "disarmed with love"? Please be specific with a) names and b) why these specific individuals ever mattered enough, among Dems or in the national debate, to argue with.

2) What did the invasion of Iraq ever have to do with disarming radical jihadists? Did you, at any point, ever believe there was a connection?

3) As an attorney, do you think the concept of "fruit of the poison tree" has any relevance to the fact that we are fucked?

Eric said...

you don't have to be a pacifist to be anti-war. i think saying "stay or go" is the precise frame that those who got us into this want - the real dangerous thugs.

It is much easier to sell "stay" to the American people than it is to sell "go". If those are the only two choices, we are indeed fucked.

Bush is as I type this saying more nonsense about "not retreating". See the trick?

How about we stay AND go?

I am a bit disappointed that you saw invastion of Iraq as inevitable. This is something else that was sold to us. It was surely inevitable in the sense that Bushco was going to do it, but not inevitable in terms of an overall foreign policy.

I don't disagree that you can't just "love" terrorists into submission, but there should surely be a component of love and compassion in any relations with other people - most especially those largely different from ourselves. This has been completely absent from any policy on our part to now.

I'm appalled that Americans were fooled into this war and let ourselves get stuck in this "we're fucked" fiasco.

Keng said...

I haven't read Murtha's plan (or maybe I did, but it was a while ago) but in my mind, there is a third option that would be somewhat unpleasant for the United States:

Publicly announce that we screwed up and ask the UN for support. If we withdraw from Iraq, the UN will eventually need to move in to stabilize the country (or in Somalia).

I'll grant this: this probably isn't a realistic option. I can't see W. overcoming his hubris and admitting any sort of mistake...but there's always wishful thinking.