Iraq War a Threat to U.S. Power, but Still Probably a Bad Idea.

Norman Solomon observes:

In the United States, while the lies behind the Iraq war become evermore obvious and victory seems increasingly unreachable, much of the opposition to the war has focused on the death and suffering among U.S. soldiers. That emphasis has a sharp political edge at home, but it can also cut another way — defining the war as primarily deplorable because of what it is doing to Americans. One danger is that a process of withdrawing some U.S. troops could be accompanied by even more use of U.S. air power that terrorizes and kills with escalating bombardment (as happened in Vietnam for several years after President Nixon announced his “Guam Doctrine” of Vietnamization in ). An effective antiwar movement must challenge the jingo-narcissism that defines the war as a problem mainly to the extent that it harms Americans.

Countless pundits and politicians continue to decry the Bush administration’s failure to come up with an effective strategy in Iraq. But the war has not gone wrong. It was always wrong.

The war in Iraq is destroying the international prestige of the United States, degrading its military, and plunging its government further into bankruptcy. In spite of all this, I still think the war was unjustified. While I share these goals, I would not endorse a course of action that sacrifices the lives and livelihoods of innocent Iraqis to achieve them.

While I’m pleased to hear that anti-war sentiment is increasing in the United States, I worry that the war-happy idea people in the Dubya Squad and the image-conscious wanna-be-pragmatists in anti-war circles may be aiming at essentially the same thing: the propping-up of an unpopular and despotic central government in Iraq that is able to rule only while leaning on the strength of the military aid it purchases from the United States, so as to rescue American ground troops who can withdraw from danger while the U.S. relies on air strikes to hit whatever Iraq’s security services fail to target.

In other words, not an end to the war but an American victory. Because I think something much like this scenario is actually the hoped-for goal of the Dubya Squad. Criticizing them for not accomplishing an independent and democratic Iraq is kind of missing the point — that isn’t really their goal and never has been.

But so many of the war critics are advocating a course of action that amounts to the same thing, by decrying the terrible loss of American troops, mentioning Iraqi losses as an afterthought if at all, and saying that U.S. ground forces should be withdrawn — not immediately, heavens no, but gradually, and only when the central government’s armed forces can take over and do our job for us.

California Peace Action’s website, for instance, advocates an agenda that looks as though it came directly from last year’s timid Democratic Party talking points: “a drawdown could coincide with the creation of a constitution and new elections, and be completed in 12 to 18 months… an international peacekeeping force under a U.N. mandate… a strong contingent of Muslim and Arab League troops as part of the peacekeeping force… rapid development of the defense capacities of Iraqi security forces…”

I half expect Dubya himself to announce the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq before the bulk of the anti-war movement thinks it quite prudent. Just imagine the scene if a month from now, or a week from now, or tomorrow, Dubya addresses the nation like so:

My fellow Americans: In I announced that our nation had begun a campaign “to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” I also said that “We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.” Our mission has been accomplished and it is time to come home, triumphant and yet humbled by the sacrifice that our noble troops have made for this just cause. I have asked the Secretary of Defense to begin an orderly withdrawal of our ground troops from Iraq immediately. We consider the government of Iraq a friend and a partner in the stability of the region, and remain willing to come to her aid in the cause of peace if she requires it. Thank you and goodnight.

Can you picture the conniption? Can you hear Karl Rove cackling over his greatest coup ever? (Imagine how the Democrats would fall all over themselves trying to spin it first one way and then the other!)

After writing all of that, I rediscovered Michael Kinsley’s essay, published in the Washington Post , that started:

Has there ever before been a war that so many people disapproved of but so few wanted to stop? Have the reasons for starting a war ever been so thoroughly discredited without turning into reasons for ending it?

…What seems to be today’s antiwar position — it was a terrible mistake and it’s a terrible mess, but we can’t just walk away from it — was actually the pro-war position during the Vietnam era. In fact, it was close to official government policy for more than half the length of that war.