Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate, incisively addresses a fundamental question I ask repeatedly: What the hell does “victory” constitute in Iraq? He discovers that the goalposts have moved repeatedly throughout the war. Most frustratingly, he concludes that in their current position, the goalposts are so far down the field as to make winning essentially impossible.
Republican hawks, like the neoconservative establishment that swarms like vultures in the upper echelons of the Bush administration, probably are drooling at McCain’s hints at 100 years of occupation and permanent military bases. There is a strain of foreign policy enthusiasts that equates our military with our democracy overseas. This idea should concern all Americans.
But Bush’s war should especially concern Democrats. Frustrated anti-war types who think we’re not withdrawing quickly enough should get ready for an infinite Indian summer. Obama’s “judgment” about going into Iraq might have been courageous and sound, but his track record in the Senate reveals just how unstable the ground in “on the ground” really is. And though Clinton reassures us that, as president, she never would’ve taken us into Iraq, she did, in fact, with her vote, do just that. And she, too, with subsequent votes, has had difficulty backing away from the fire that her 9/11 patriotic pyromania caused her to help spark.
Because the Bush administration has been so undefining, so abstract, about its vision for what it is on the ground that would allow us to consider reducing and ultimately removing our military presence from Iraq, Democrats and paleoconservative Republicans are going to find the hawkish mouthpieces in as much of an uproar as the conservative judicial establishment was when Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. These are the same people who cry out in patriotic pain when our military spending doesn’t increase fast enough to overtake our WWII levels and pushes us to outspending every other country in the world on defense combined.
Ultimately, I think Obama’s vision of engaging the world and returning to non-cowboy diplomacy with a rich diplomatic establishment could be the most refreshing restart of the 21st century for America. Using the State Department rather than the Department of Defense for strengthening democracies around the world would return us to a position of advocating our values without doing it at gunpoint. And while he does this, he’s actually going to go after terrorists, which would be a nice change of pace. Remember Osama bin Laden?
But even Obama is going to have to stare down the post-Cheney neoconservative bullies with tremendous courage. The Rush Limbaughs and Bill Kristols and Sean Hannitys of the world have tasted blood, and like sharks, they love it and are ready to frenzy. For these men, violence and aggression are so much the means that one is left to wonder whether they are also the end.
For those who, like me, would prefer to dismantle the military industrial complex (without sacrificing our national security) to honor Eisenhower, I present a short listing of resources worth a look as we pursue alternative pathways to peace:
Unfortunately, the anti-war movement always seems to draw from anti-establishment crowds (ANSWER, anyone?) that have no interest in ever engaging with mainstream Americans. If you know of any other credible organizations that specifically advocate forcefully for a reduction in our defense spending, please let me know.