Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Two separate debates

This is a political post. You have been warned.

I consider myself a moderate, mostly because I come down on opposite ends of the spectrum on numerous topics. Neither of the major political parties come close to matching my beliefs. I've long since accepted this, and trend towards whichever candidate I agree with most.

But above that, I like to consider myself a realist. I understand that we don't live in a panacea, where a perfect solution exists. Every debate over every current crisis - New Orleans, Iraq, climate change, etc - is dominated by the extremes, and we see time and time again that the extremes refuse to compromise.

The immigration bill is a great example of this - it was a great piece of legislation that dealt with the problem. Was it perfect? No. But it worked to handle both sides - what do we do about the illegal immigrants currently in this country, and what do we do going forward. Alas, politics killed this.

I can think of no greater issue where the reality is being ignored than our involvement in Iraq. George Packer of the New Yorker made several observations (warning, long) about Iraq, the coverage of it, and the debate revolving around it. One great point that he makes is that before the war even started, people had drawn up sides, and those sides clouded their opinions of what happened from there on forward. And we are now left with two camps - ones that say we should have never been there and let's leave, and others that say the war is just and we need to continue to fight it.

I don't see those as the same debate. Wether we should have gone to war and wether we should leave Iraq are two completely separate debates.

If people want to debate if Saddam needed to go, if we should have gone in after him, if we lied about our pre-war intelligence, if we went in illegally, if we violated UN policy or the spirit of the UN, if the war up until now has been mismanaged, that's fine.

But none of those debates changes one very simple, cold, hard fact - The United States created the situation in Iraq.

Barak Obama put it succinctly recently in response to a John McCain speech- Al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq until we invaded. He scored some great political points, but he missed the reality of the situation.

Yes, the US did this. President Bush ordered troops into the country, and we swatted that hornet's nest, but good.

The fact of the matter is that the US responsible for the current situation in Iraq. And, as a result, we are responsible for cleaning the mess up. We cannot - must not - simply pack up and leave. To do so would put both this nation, and, arguably more importantly, Iraq at great peril.

I don't for the life of me grok the thought that if we leave the violence will cease. The government that is in place has shown no signs of being able to protect its people.

I don't for the life of me grok the thought that leaving will force the Iraqi government to step up and do what needs to be done. What has the Iraqi government shown us up to this point that they're capable of changing?

I don't for the life of me grok the thought that leaving will make this nation more secure. We will have shown the world that we are unable to follow through on a commitment. We lost in Vietnam. We lost in Somalia. And we will have lost in Iraq.

I don't for the life of me grok how leaving Iraq isn't losing the war. We went in with a stated purpose of eliminating a regime and rebuilding a nation. We will not have accomplished that task (regardless of what banners on aircraft carriers might say).

We can't abandon the Iraqi people. We can't abandon our commitment. We can't abandon the situation we created.

Now, if you'd like to debate how the war is being waged, I am willing to have that discussion. We need to go back to the UN [with our tail between our legs] and ask for their support. We need to engage every nation (including Iran) in the region and begin working towards solutions. We need to secure the borders to prevent unwanted influences.

And, above all, we must prevail. Iraq must prevail.

The alternative is frightening.

(side note - I know I just turned on "moderation" of comments. Please know that I will not kill any comment except spam - if you disagree with me (and it's PG rated) I'll still post your comment.)

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