Saturday, February 03, 2007

New intelligence warns that Iraq is on the brink of chaos

The annual National Intelligence Estimate warns that Iraq is in danger of further polarization and any more destabilization could result in an all-out civil war, painting a picture of a country hanging in the balance. They said that stabilization in the next 12-18 months will be difficult and that Bush’s new plan for troop increases “could” tilt the struggle in our favor. This is a report put together from America’s 16 spy agencies and has shown to be fairly accurate in the past.

From what I read, basically, we are at a key moment in the Middle East. What happens in the next few months may determine the future of that part of the world for decades to come. There aren’t many options here. An all-out withdrawal would be catastrophic. Keeping with the status-quo would accomplish little as well. So what do we do?

This is obviously the decision Bush was facing a few months back, and I don’t envy the guy one bit for having to decide here. This war is very unpopular on the home front, and his approval rating has plummeted despite a booming economy and no terror attacks here since 2001. Without Iraq, Bush would have pretty good approval numbers, it would be hard to argue that. The easy thing, politically, would be to pull out. We have 2 years until the next presidential election and pulling out could give his party a fighting chance there. But, it’s simply the wrong thing to do. Again, I don’t envy his position.

So if I were him, I’d sit down with my top military and intelligence advisors and get their take. I’d ask how the situation could be salvaged. I believe that’s exactly what Bush did, and this NIE report is consistent with that. There may not be hope of salvaging the situation, but if it’s going to work then the only way to make it work is to increase troop strength in Baghdad to secure the city. If Baghdad is secured, then victory could be achieved. Basically, this is our only (and final) shot.

Regardless how anyone feels about why we went into Iraq, or whether we should have done it to begin with, the facts are that we DID go in. That can’t be changed, so arguing about it now is pointless. And regardless what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you simply can’t deny that achieving victory in Iraq is in ALL of our best interests. America will be safer and more secure when Iraq is stable, democratic, and NOT a safe haven for terrorism. I honestly don’t think anyone can dispute those points. Now, I may hear “what is victory” or “the situation is hopeless” but this is simply argumentative. Let’s at least agree that victory in Iraq would be a GOOD thing. So I don’t want to hear opinions on the merits of the war, it’s simply a waste of time to debate that at this point and it doesn’t do anything to improve the situation there. We’re there, we need to get out soon but in a way that doesn’t put this country in danger. Bush’s plan, according to those who KNOW what’s going on in Iraq is the only way to achieve that, even if it is a long-shot.

With that in mind, can we please put the politics aside? It frustrates me to see how much this war has been politicized, and how much more danger our troops face because of politics back home. There is no excuse for it. Voting on non-binding protest resolutions does absolutely no good – and the commanding General in Iraq has said on record that such a vote would damage troop morale. That alone should have killed this discussion. So why go through with it? Politics. It’s sickening.

What I’d like to see is for Congress and indeed America to come together for once and agree that yes, there have been some mistakes, our reasons for going in bring up some serious questions, the situation is deteriorating and may not be winnable, but we need to give Iraq every chance possible to come through this. If the commanders feel this plan may work, then isn’t it worth trying? If the NIE says that a pull-out would be disastrous, shouldn’t we exhaust all other options? If our “leaders” would just do this, then I think the people, in general, would follow suit – and they’d earn my respect. Politics doesn’t belong here, and victory gets further away the more we bicker about it here at home.

I understand why some say this war is wrong. I get it. But why can’t that debate take place after the situation in Iraq has been resolved? Either we succeed there or we don’t. Time will soon reveal that. The point is, protesting and arguing and playing partisan politics, or acting in a way that better ensures your reelection only contributes to the chaos. How hard would it be for Senator Obama to say “I am opposed to this war to begin with, but victory is in America’s best interest, so the President has my support, and when this war is concluded there will be some serious questions to answer.” Done. Easy. Obama (or any other Senator) immediately would become a political hero in the eyes of both conservatives and progressives, and again would earn a great deal of respect. What would be wrong with this? And my gut tells me that all of these people KNOW that would be the right thing to do, but politics simply prevents them from doing it. It’s a shame.

If Bush’s plan fails, then I think we pull out, as well we probably should. The Iraqi people would have been given their shot, and they would have rejected it. We pull the troops into Kuwait, Saudi and the northern Kurdish areas and let whatever happen in central Iraq. It will be brutal. There will be mass killings – genocide on a Khmer Rouge scale. It will be hard for us as Americans to watch. So, if and when that happens, we need to be able to say “we did what we could”. That’s when the political debate should resume, when our troops are finished doing their job, no sooner. Can we at least agree on that? I certainly hope so.

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