Monday, December 05, 2005

Iraq: Now What Do We Do?

A friend asked me a couple of days ago what we should do about Iraq, and I answered, "I don't know." Sounds like it's time for me to start doing my homework.
Where to start? One thing I've learned is, when it comes to analyzing difficult policy questions, one shouldn't start at the conclusion. So I don't want to start with simply considering who's for immediate withdrawal and who's for a phase out. The Washington Post today highlights some of the differences within the Democratic Party on how to extract ourselves from the mess in Iraq. It's natural that Democrats don't agree; after all the country as a whole is divided and unsure. So why shouldn't we have an open discussion? It's what we should have had three years ago.
Next, my inclination is to start identifying criteria for evaluating alternatives. What's in our national interest? What obligation do we have to the people of Iraq? What are our forces accomplishing? To what extent are our troops simply struggling to keep themselves safe? How much of the violence is targeted at U.S. forces and how much is internal Iraqi conflict?
Another thing I've learned is to turn to people who have earned my respect for thinking things through. Even when I don't agree with them, I can learn from their deliberations. For instance, Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has three recommendations of "must read" pieces.
I respect Joe Biden, even though I think his timeline is too open-ended. Still, I find him thoughtful and open in terms of running through the criteria underlying his recommended course of action.
I respect Wes Clark. What's he thinking about in terms of troop withdrawal? I trust his judgment of Iraqi security forces more than I do say, Donald Rumsfeld's.
In summary, we in the loyal opposition have the opportunity to do what our president should have done three years ago: Have an sober, open discussion of our alternatives.


Blogger jason said...

Well said. I would add that we also need to get to the real root reason for our invasion of Iraq in the first place. The people, like Biden, who think that "the why" is "water under the bridge" are missing an important ingredient for eventual success.

We have clearly blown a great deal of our credibility both domestically and internationally, so getting to "the why" and understanding what our true intentions were will help rebuild some of the credibility.

Every American wants us to be successful in Iraq, we just need to know what success means in order to begin pulling together and working for that success.

7:47 AM, December 06, 2005  

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