I started to post a comment to Dave’s argument that we have a legal and moral responsibility to Iraq. It became too longwinded, so I am turning it into a separate argument. My title applies equally to both sides of the conversation we need to have on the left.
Moral and legal responsibility are nice words, but how do you apply them to an immoral war and an impossible situation? Unfortunately, we may not be able to prevent an Iraqi civil war. If the presence of American troops exacerbates religious and nationalist fervor, the best solution may be immediate withdrawal, even if it leads to civil war in Iraq.
Until we have a serious conversation in America about various exit strategies, we will never know if a “successful resolution” of the Iraq war is possible. The problem with all current analysis is that the assumption of the pottery barn rule locks in a continued American military presence until an undefineable “success” is achieved. The Middle East has never known peace or respite from intense religious warfare. The Middle East may never know peace or respite from intense religious warfare. Does the presence of American troops encourage or restrain religious warfare in Iraq?
Of course conservative warmongers will blame Democrats. With all due respect, that argument sounds like a variation of the contention that Howard Dean should avoid speaking the truth about Republicans because Rush Limbaugh will lie about what he said. To this day conservatives blame Democrats and the M$M for Pol Pot and genocide in Cambodia. It doesn’t matter that the Vietnam war itself, forcing Vietnamese troops into a once tranquil country and illegal bombing caused the destruction of traditional social and political life in Cambodia.
The quagmire in Iraq requires rational thought and analysis absent any consideration for conservative reaction or demagoguery. Our moral and legal responsibility to Iraq should not and cannot be tinged with fear of political demagoguery from the WSJ editorial page and The Weekly Standard. Moral and legal responsibility, caged in by fear of conservative criticism, diminishes the moral principles that need to be unleashed and examined.
We need to begin a private dialogue on the left of what our options are for meeting genuine moral and legal responsibilities. The sad truth may be that our choice is a disastrous withdrawal in fifteen years or a disastrous withdrawal in two years.
The dialogue about our moral and legal responsibility needs to include the serious points raised by Robert Kuttner in his American Prospect article The Universe Next Door. I would even expand the universe Kuttner describes of domestic objectives that we could be achieving instead of wasting precious American lives and our national treasure in Iraq. For example, a rational foreign policy could theoretically be positively engaged in addressing genocide in Darfur. A rational foreign policy could easily be more seriously engaged in tsunami relief.
I’m all in favor of a rational dialogue about what our moral and legal responsibilities in Iraq. I suggest we have the conversation without consideration for the inevitable conservative diatribe. Let the conversation continue . . .