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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The U.S., Iraq and the post-oil Middle East Pt. 3: a proposal

If Sergio de Mello, the slain U.N. Diplomat whose memory forms the touchstone of these pieces (Essay One and Essay Two) then the concluding paragraph of David Reiff's Nation book review of Larry Diamond's Squandered Victory and David L. Phillips's Losing Iraq represents their intellectual start point and challenge:

“....both [of these] books illustrate and exemplify the extraordinary consensus about the duty to intervene that has arisen over the course of the post-cold war world. We have not yet begun to pay the price for this--not because we do it ineptly but rather because it rarely seems possible except on the far fringes of the political right and left, what with the "historic compromise" between the Bush Administration and the human rights movement over humanitarian intervention, if not over torture, rendition, the Patriot Act and myriad other issues, to have a serious conversation about whether the United States has any business trying to create democracies by force of arms. Instead, the consensus not just of these two writers and activists but of the great and the good from the Kennedy School of Government, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to the thirty-eighth floor of the UN, to 10 Downing Street seems to be that we--whether the "we" in question proves to be the United States, the UN or that mythical entity, the international community--must learn to do this sort of thing better, more effectively, perhaps more humanely. It is not only L. Paul Bremer who suffers from hubris.”

I do not wholly endorse Reiff's point...certainly DeMello's career and the exceptional leadership he showed in Rwanda, in Kosovo and East Timor...a career written under two of the cornerstone concepts of our generation, human rights and internationalism...form a powerful counterweight to Reiff's blanket accusations of interventionist hubris. It is more that Reiff has put his finger on precisely the challenge that any progressive proposal for ending the U.S. occupation in Iraq needs to address: if we do not oppose the flawed and destructive ideological assumptions the Bush Administration (and its friends and abettors) used to construct the quagmire that is Iraq today, we will only compound the process that Bush began. Simply put, whether one advocates for immediate withdrawal or some form of broader new internationalist initiative, as I do, the task at hand is broader and has deeper roots than simply 'fixing the mess in Iraq' or, conversely, 'pulling the troops out'.

We must, on some level, create new start points in Iraq and the Middle East; we must craft a 'global response' to a global challenge. Our start points must address the fundamentals of the situation, including energy policy, regional stability and cooperation, the role of the United Nations in international affairs, and the role that citizens of the industrialized powers have in investing and partnering with citizens outside our borders. Our start points must be founded on a diagnosis both of what ails American foreign policy under Bush, and what, as Reiff points out, has been a broader failure of imagination and pragmatism on the left in opposition to that policy at home and abroad. At the end of the day, however, the concept of intervention, and Reiff's blanket opposition to it, belies our deep interdependence; we 'intervene' every day...at the gas station, in the check-out line, when we buy a pair of blue jeans, when we order a burger at the take out stand...whether we like it or not. If we do not 'get this' reality, these facts on the ground, we must understand that the right always has, and uses these realities decisively to their advantage.

The neo-conservatism of the Bush Administration represents a failure of imagination coupled with a deeply cynical approach to creating 'facts on the ground.' The one undercuts the other. U.S. foreign policy under Bush, as I've argued in my first two essays, is designed to create quagmires. Like the ballooning national debt under Bush that will be used to strangle progressive governmental initiatives for decades to come, the 'facts on the ground' in Iraq are now being used to strangle equitable internationalist proposals that are the only real solutions and start points to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. These processes mirror each other. What most commentators on the left have missed, in railing against the preemptive nature of the intervention in Iraq and its utterly flawed rationales (WMD, a burgeoning nuclear program, an al Qaeda connection) is how profoundly preemptive this war truly was. In invading Iraq, Bush set out no less than to break the United Nations and the historic alliance between Europe and the United States; this was deliberate and deeply preemptive. This war was political from the very beginning; Bush's decision to take the nation into war in Iraq in 2003 represented, on some level, the most costly reelection campaign effort ever in both lives and dollars. Domestically, in using a 'war on terror' to divide the Democrats and militarize political discourse in the United States...Bush and the GOP preempted substantive political debate during the 2002 and 2004 elections, and will, most certainly use those very tactics again, to similar effect, in 2006.

As I noted in essay two, where Democratic 'hawks' like the Center for American Progress' Peter Korb and Peter Katulis, or General Clark and Larry Diamond err, in my view, is that they do not address this broader preemption, this more profound intervention. They fall, as Democrats have done repeatedly, into the trap of 'fixing' what is, essentially 'unfixable', and in the process they endorse, on some level or another, a validation of U.S.-led intervention in Iraq. There is no way out of this Catch-22 squared that the Bush administration has created...the rampant 'up is downism' of U.S. policy in Iraq...without addressing fundamentals like energy policy, the United Nations, our European alliance and investment in regional development and peace accords. Proposals that endorse 'patching Humpty Dumpty together' in Iraq that don't assess this broader reality are doomed to both practical and political failure. You see, the Bush Administration has toppled a much bigger figure that Saddam Hussein's Iraq...you might say that this is a 'Humpty Dumpty' whose face is really the globe we live on. What is at stake is the future of our climate and the future of energy production, the prospects for international cooperation and equitable development, and, finally, whether sound global investments might bear the fruits of peace, stability, and mutual trust between the peoples and nations of this earth

As a first step in elaborating proposals for Iraq and a post-oil Middle East I'd like to address what many view as the most articulate progressive blueprint for ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Michael Schwartz' essay, Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense. Schwartz argues for immediate U.S. withdrawal based on four points, in his words:

  • 1. The U.S. military is already killing more civilian Iraqis than would likely die in any threatened civil war.
  • 2. The U.S. presence is actually aggravating terrorist (Iraqi-on-Iraqi) violence, not suppressing it.
  • 3. Much of the current terrorist violence would be likely to subside if the U.S. left
  • 4. The longer the U.S. stays, the more likely that scenarios involving an authentic civil war will prove accurate.

  • At the core of Schwartz' argument is the work of terrorism expert Robert Pape. Here Schwartz lays out his argument using Pape's work:

    Terrorism expert Robert Pape reports that, in recent history, it is almost unknown for suicide bombings to continue after the withdrawal of the occupying power:

    "Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop--and often on a dime."

    American withdrawal is therefore the cornerstone of any strategy that wants to maximize the hope of avoiding civil war. It would, at one and the same moment, remove the major source of Iraqi civilian deaths -- and remove the primary flash point that leads to the car bombings. It would certainly mean as well the withdrawal of Shia and Kurdish troops from Sunni cities -- the key to Zarqawi's ability to convince (some) Sunnis that the Shia are willing pawns of the occupation and so their eternal enemies.

    At its core Schwartz' argument is a 'moral' one, concerned with saving lives and opposing a policy of intervention; and yet he has a deeply pragmatic start point: that U.S. intervention has actually been the root cause of the terrorist attacks that have riven Iraq for the last two-and-one-half years. In sum, face to face with this reality, Schwartz advocates what Reiff's concluding paragraph seems to imply, an immediate withdrawal of the U.S. intervention that has caused the malady on the ground in Iraq. This withdrawal will likely have some dire consequences, but Schwartz sees no upside in staying:

    "American withdrawal would undoubtedly leave a riven, impoverished Iraq, awash in a sea of weaponry, with problems galore, and numerous possibilities for future violence. The either/or of this situation may not be pretty, but on a grim landscape, a single reality stands out clearly: Not only is the American presence the main source of civilian casualties, it is also the primary contributor to the threat of civil war in Iraq. The longer we wait to withdraw, the worse the situation is likely to get -- for the U.S. and for the Iraqis."

    The core, then, of Schwartz' analysis is how U.S. policy drives the insurgency and the jihadists, and fuels a likely civil war. It is significant to me that it is the only proposal I've read that truly seeks to understand the lens through which those in the Middle East see the United States and the West. In this, it represents what must be the essential first step of a 'progressive analysis'...global and internationalist solutions that give everyone a seat at the table. In short, Schwartz values the lives of Iraqi citizens equally with our own. His analysis is flawed, however, in that Schwartz focuses on the purveyors of suicide bombing...as if the key to solving the problems in Iraq and the Middle East were simply to address the immediate symptom of U.S. intervention and not its root causes. However, once we have begun to ask ourselves what the people of Iraq might truly want, ie. what they might see as in their long-term self interest, what would solve the root causes of their problems, it is clear that Schwartz' advocacy of U.S. abandonment of Iraq to the "not pretty" vagaries of a likely civil war runs counter to the very 'moral' solution he proposes. This has been the eternal quandary of the anti-interventionist progressive left in the West.

    What we have in Iraq is a situation much like the one with the Nicaraguan elections of 1990 that saw the Sandinistas voted out of power to the surprise of many in the Western left, a left that had kept U.S. intervention and the contras as an obsessive focus to the exclusion of the democratic self-interest of the people of Nicaragua themselves. Why should people anywhere vote against peace and stability for their children? Why should the people of Iraq pay the price for the anti-interventionist politics and outside ethics of the American and European left? In my view, Schwartz' analysis, while its start-points and motivating questions have their heart in the right place...ie. what is in the best interests of the people of Iraq and the Middle East...ignores the likelihood that if put to a vote, given the current situation on the ground and the absence of viable domestic or outside alternatives for maintaining the peace, the citizens of Iraq would not likely ask the United States to outright leave.

    Further, you could argue that a region-wide civil or ethnic war that toppled, say, the government of Saudia Arabia or Pakistan, or saw Iran intervene in Iraq would also be "not pretty" and create a "grim landscape" with worldwide repercussions. In fact, as Michael Klare's analysis (noted in essay one) relentlessly points out, the entire industrialized world, including the growing economies of India and China, is hopelessly dependent on oil and natural gas from the Middle East. The global "oil shock" that would certainly result from long term instability in the Persian Gulf means that every citizen of the world is deeply invested in peaceful and stable outcomes to the current crisis in Iraq.

    In my view, any progressive proposal, wary as we are of the evils of military intervention, must take our mutual interdependence with the citizens of the region as a start point and, in fact, seek to build partnership in the Middle East building out from that reality. We must address the hard fact that forces for instability in the Middle East are also those least invested in the peaceful transfer of oil to the industrialized world. The oil economy over the last decades in the Middle East has yielded little in the way of democracy or development for the region's citizens despite representing an enormous transfer of wealth. In fact, it is clear that the current course of history points to a "post-oil Middle East" stripped of its resources and with little to show for it in way of sustainable economic prospects and institutions for development. There is nothing in Schwartz or Reiff's analysis that addresses this reality, and yet, in my view, this is intervention too; it just happens, invisibly, every time we go to the gas pump.

    Our start point then, should be equitable proposals that envision a fundamental change in this state of affairs. We must put forward these proposals in a way that confronts, directly, both:

  • The way in which the Bush Administration has deliberately preempted the United Nations, internationalism, and any possibility of broader cooperation with European and regional allies with its unilateral war,
  • And, as Michael Schwartz and Juan Cole have pointed out, the root causes of the insurgency in the broader Middle East: ie. the rank injustice of the failure of the industrial world to give the region anything in return for the use of its resources. Our lack of respect for the democratic will of its peoples. Our foot dragging on pushing for a peaceful long-term accord in Israel and Palestine. And our continued military presence in the region that, as it now stands, simply props up this state of affairs and facilitates the flow of oil.

  • It is my conviction that the world knows, fundamentally, that a post-oil Middle East will be a post-intervention Middle East. Much good will might flow from our establishing this horizon for all to see. Further, the entire world understands that a recommitment to internationalism and a revitalization of the U.N. has deeply democratic implications that run counter to current U.S. neo-con philosophy. To this end, we must start our proposals at exactly the points where the Bush Adminstration has abandoned the internationalist vision. Here, then, would be my four essential start points, they represent a forthrightly internationalist proposal:

  • Reinvesting in the United Nations as the agency for peacekeeping, development and regional stability, and committing to making the U.N. an effective agent for peace and development in Iraq.
  • Reengaging our allies both in Europe and around the world both as partners in rebuilding the United Nations and as powerful new partners in remaking U.S. policy in Iraq in ways that ensure peaceful outcomes for its citizens. We need the full cooperation and investment of Germany, Japan, France, Russian, India and China...and any foothold that would allow us find regional cooperation and partnership in securing peace and stability in Iraq. There is no way around this.
  • Recommitting the United States to an active commitment to the peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine in the near term.
  • Making a new and explicit disavowal of permanent unilateral U.S. military presence anywhere in the region. Not in Kuwait, not in Qatar, not In Saudi Arabia and not in Iraq. To this end, we need to explore developing a new N.A.T.O.-like treaty organization based in, and led from, the Persian Gulf. This treaty organization would be explicitly committed to maintaining peace and stability in the Gulf region, with as little outside intrusion as possible, for the benefit of, and with the democratic participation of, the citizens of the region in partnership with the major industrial powers around the globe. Simply put, actors with the intention of destabilizing the region must know that they will face an overwhelming response similar to the first U.S.-led war in the Persian Gulf. However, this time around they would face a pre-existing treaty alliance that features the cooperation of the world's powers and the structural participation of the citizens of the region.

  • Further, in the immediate near term future in Iraq, rather than endorsing a policy of, as Korb and Katulis put it: Strategic Redeployment...the United States and its allies in Iraq need to make a Strategic Internationalization of their mission there. We need to place that mission, more and more, under control of the United Nations; and this is something the U.S. Democratic opposition needs to say in clear terms. It is clear, as John Pike pointed out, that tanks and planes will be needed to keep the peace in Iraq, and to defend its borders. The tanks and planes needed to guarantee the stability of Iraq should be under the increasing aegis of the U.N., and feature the participation of an ever-broader pool of the world's nations. This should be done with the vote and consent of the citizens of Iraq and over the two-year timetable that Korb and Katulis outline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. (One year would see most U.S. troops gone, and in two years, all of them.) Iraq should not be left to the vagaries of civil war, nor should the region be left with an unstable "failed state" at its crossroads. Stategic Internationalization of the U.S. mission and an explicit conversion of "the unilateral occupation" into a U.N. peacekeeping effort is the only acceptable next step. Indeed, as unlikely as this proposal seems at present, if it were to be taken up in good faith by the United States and Great Britian it might very well swing the popular mood in the region away from the disasters of civil war and ongoing jihad that Schwartz predicts and encourage offers of international cooperation and popular acceptance that are now withheld.

    This proposal, however, is "not pretty" too, and it involves a limited endorsement of the continuing United States occupation and intervention; Strategic Internationalization would certainly severely test the limits of the peacekeeping functions of the U.N. (If not now, when?) The context of this proposal, however, is fundamentally different from either a flat-out anti-interventionist strategy of "cut and run" or the Clark plan of finding a way for the U.S. to "succeed and win" in Iraq while remaining, essentially, in control of the operation with no set end points or transition goals. It should, at the end of the day, be the people of Iraq who "succeed" and "win" there, in cooperation with the United Nations and in partnership from the full-sprectrum of the industrialized nations who are most invested in the stable access to Iraq's oil. The only possibility for an equitable and peaceful solution to the quagmire in Iraq is an internationalist partnership that benefits all the players, but most importantly, the Iraqis themselves.

    {On that note, I acknowledge that these essays do not take up discussions of the Iraqi constitution, or proposals coming out of the various ethnic and political groups in Iraq. That has been deliberate. I am trying to address what U.S. citizens might propose to "end the occupation"...the other side of that equation, what Iraqis might propose or accept, is one that I follow by reading the war in context and Informed Comment. This is simply another huge topic of discussion and, I think, a deeply relevant one.}

    That brings me to the core of this proposal: broader goals that we must engage as part of our ability to put an internationalist solution on the table. The world must make clear to the people of the Persian Gulf that their territorial autonony and right to profit from the trade of what, at the end of the day, are their resources, is paramount. We must invest in a vision of a thriving post-oil Middle East founded on development and based on an equitable return for the sale of those resources. This will involve investment in Universities and sustainable development projects. It will mean taking the long view of regional development. We must make clear that we seek partners in the region who share this vision: a vision of peace, of stability, of autonomy and of equitable investment. We in the United States will never convince the people of the region that we are not interested in their energy resources; we are too obviously dependent on the region's oil. What we must do, then, at a minimum is to seek partners inside and outside of Iraq who understand that an "equitable investment" in development that benefits all of the region's citizens is the core of the industrial world's attitude. That proposal, too, must be made a part of the internationalization of the solution, and serve as a representation of our 'good faith.' Peacekeeping is not enough. Peace and stability without that investment or that autonomy are merely a charade. They are simply "intervention" with a different name.

    In that regard, the United States must also make a sudden and public shift in its energy policies. This is a shift that Bush and the GOP have proven themselves incapable of, but which, fundamentally, should have been a cornerstone of our response to 9/11; the United States needs to move towards a policy of energy independence. This will take decades, but, more than any strategic defense initiative, charting a stark course towards true energy independence would send a powerful message to the rest of the world. Only by investing our limited resources in becoming truly energy independent can we convince citizens everywhere that our interests are truly in the twin projects of democracy and development. The world knows that an 'oil-addicted' United States is essentially an 'interventionist' United States. Democracy and freedom, in the context or our 'energy dependence' are hollow Bushisms that mean nothing. Signaling our intention to change this course over the next 25 years would send positive shock waves around the globe...shock waves that speak to our commitment to the core values of democracy, development and peaceful coexistence with our neighbors.

    Only by making a real commitment to a just and peaceful post-oil world, and to building internationalist structures to attain that goal, will the United States ever convince those least invested in peace in the Middle East that we are truly not a duplicitous player in the region. The only way to defeat al Qaeda is to drain the rationale that drives recruits to join it. A United States committed to energy independence and to partnership...through the U.N....in peaceful and equitable development is a United States that, truly, has no interest in dominating the Middle East or in interventions based solely on economic self-interest. Nothing the Bush Administration has done has addressed this equation; in fact, everything they have done has sought to undermine it. They have even created a "false" definition of democracy and freedom that the world understands as corrputed by a self-serving rationale for the status quo. We cannot continue to guzzle oil and gas and intervene unilaterally in defense of our energy interests and expect anyone to trust that we believe in freedom and democracy.

    In essence, this essay ends where it began, with a recommitment to a vision of the United Nations that the Bush Administration has worked so hard to undermine and devalue (the real story behind the Bolton nomination and Oil for Food scandal.) The world lost something enormous with the death of Sergio de Mello in Iraq in August of 2003. We need to return to the project to which he gave his life. The following trio of essays might serve as start points for a discussion about renewing our committment to the fundamental, and essentially progressive, mission of the U.N., a democracy that, however imperfect, still serves as the only voice with structural power to serve all the world's citizens:

  • Shashi Tharoor's 2003 Why American Still Needs the United Nations
  • Shashi Tharoor's September letter: A United Nations for a fairer, safer World
  • and Kofi Annan’s In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all.

  • Citizens, whether in Iraq or Guatamala, Zimbabwe or Brazil, faced with an interventionist U.S. and a global climate of powers hungry for resources of all sorts, will rely on whatever structures they sense can best protect and defend them. Everyone is invested, on some level, in peace and stability. The only truly progressive response to the occupation of Iraq is a two-pronged approach of working within the U.S. to change policy, and working inside, and outside, the U.S. to build up the United Nations and other global partners as actors for the internationlist vision. Only with the development of a competing paradigm to the Bush model of preemptive, unilateral intervention in the name of "democracy and freedom" will we be able to convince the world of the validity of the internationalist project...a project committed to development and the dignity of all the world's citizens. To succeed, that model must prove its efficacy. We all know that George Bush and his partners are, for their own reasons, deeply invested in cutting this project off at its knees; the point of these essays has been that, on some level, that purpose, indeed, was the essential meaning of the invasion of Iraq.

    A recommitment ot internationalism must be our fundamental response to Bush. We are talking about the difference between intervention and investment. We are talking about the distinction between unilateralism and interdependence, between hegemony and partnership. We are talking about whether we will ever succeed in building global solutions to the very real global crises we face, like climate change, our dependence on petro-chemicals, AIDS and the very real danger of global pandemics like the avian flu. Fundamentally, we are talking about the fate of the planet; something that will be decided over the course of the next hundred years by all of its citizens from the most powerful to the least.

    Our proposals for Iraq must take the long view. But we must push to act in the short term in accord with our deepest values, and with a deep respect for the hunger of all citizens everywhere for peace for their children. At the end of the day, we must make sure that Sergio de Mello, who gave his life, like so many others that day, for the people of Iraq and for the United Nations...a man who represented the profoundest sense of the utility and mission of that organization...did not die in vain in August of 2003.



    • paul,

      i know your feelings on crossposting and all, but this is quite frankly the best discussion of the mideast quagmire that we find ourselves in that i have read, on- or offline, including prof. cole. i would strongly urge you not only to crosspost this as a series on group blogs such as dkos, booman, my left wing, and LSF, but would also suggest that you seriously consider sending them to newspapers or liberal magazines like the nation as an op-ed.

      seriously, more eyes need to see this. it's a great starting point for a much-needed discussion about our future.

      By Anonymous wu ming, at 6:29 PM  

    • KO, as per our earlier conversation, I think it would be really valuable to condense these three-pieces into a much shorter thing, not as a substitute for but a companion to this super-long essay. In some ways this essay left me feeling more, not less, at sea about Iraq, because I couldn't come away with a clear summary, in my own mind, about what your view was about what our policy toward U.S. troops should be in Iraq. It's quite possible though that my confusion is merely the echo of some of my own utter lostness about this and other Iraq/anti-war questions.

      By Blogger awol, at 1:19 PM  

    • re: wu ming


      I think this essay is not ready for primetime...even if I boiled it down and honed it for mass consumption....ie did a "kid oakland" on it.....(this piece is more paul delehanty if you know what i mean.)

      I feel that I am stuck, personally, because I am deeply conflicted about posting on other blogs right now.

      To be honest, my energy for returning to the world of dKos is quite low. If I go back there I'm an "issue" or "hyping" or "pimping" ....but if I post here, it is almost as if I'm just writing for my close friends, which you all are, but not for that broader audience.

      I wish there was a way for people to have access to my writing outside dKos. That's why I built this place. Right now, despite our numbers and my respect for you, we are very very small. More people recommended a typical diary of mine on dKos than read this site in one day. That's the truth of it.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:16 PM  

    • re: awol

      The roots of this essay are my participation at the anti-war rally the 24th with friends of mine who are very much in the informed anti-interventionist camp.

      I felt I owed these friends, coming out of our conversations and marching, a survey of the terrain that shapes my own views and considered engagement with the sources they said informed theirs.

      That meant reading and engaging Reiff and Schwartz and Klare (my good friend Jerry from Portland pointed me there) but also entailed reading and thinking about what General Clark...and Korb and Katulis have proposed.

      For myself, my thoughts always go back to these start points: The war in Iraq, in addition to a very grim reality on the ground, has also been a war on internationalism and an attempt to militarize political discourse in the U.S.

      Even reading these sources, I don't see how a policy of "troops out now" is good for the people of Iraq or engages these two fundamentals, or even does what Schwartz says it might: prevent further loss of life on all sides.

      My argument is to go back to these start points: to seek not just international cooperation as a way to end the U.S. occupation but also to rebuild the case for internationalism both as a political philosophy as an antidote to the unilateral and militarized strategies of the Bush administration.

      In short, if Kerry had won, I would have adovocated him speaking to the four main points I outlined:

      A commitment to work with the Iraqis and the UN to build a transition from U.S. occupation to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Iraq.
      A reengagement with our allies with this as a start point.
      A recommitment to tough negotiating for an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
      A blanket statement that the United States does not seek permanent bases in the region and will help build a treaty alliance for peace and stability there.

      Further, I am proposing we push for two further goals:

      the goal of energy independence
      the goal of partnering to build a post-oil Middle East on the basis of fair and peaceful trade for the energy resources of the region.

      I haven't read all of these points in one place before, maybe they exist elsewhere. I am certainly not a Middle East expert.. If I failed in putting too much on the page, forgive me. In some ways, I wanted to show the process...how I worked my through the material.

      To be frank...I am tired of glib blogging that presents canned answers and "tag" points. Too often we just play ideological ping pong...and I feared that this "list" with no supporting material....would be just that. At the very least, this series presents a place one can come back to and find, from the point of view of one "marcher" on 9/24 a sense of how I viewed and processed my anti-war stance, filtered through the challenge of engaging my friends and colleagues.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:17 PM  

    • "In short, if Kerry had won, I would have adovocated him speaking to the four main points I outlined." But these points *were* Kerry's position on Iraq. You can draw fine points of distinction, but I put your position squarely in a middle-ground -- between troops-out-now vs. continue unilateral intervention/America's war on terror -- which basically revolves around internationalizing the war effort.

      I share this position. Thankfully, we are not alone. As I see it this was the position, in essence, of Kerry's campaign and of Clark today. Anyone who takes seriously internationalizing the war effort acknowledges several things: giving up permanent bases, giving up American-controlled economic and energy deals, committing a fair number of American troops for a fairly long period, and, hardest of all, pulling off the massive diplomatic miracles that will *get* the world back into Iraq (including a radically different stance toward the UN, toward mideast peace, etc.).

      Several questions that emerge from this. How does this internationalizing and energy-policy based approach to the war (or against the war?) help us think through the immediate and bloody and growing conflict between Sunnis and Shia? What does it mean to advocate this knowing that it won't be our country's immediate course of action (on the contrary, we're in the world of Bolton -- actively moving farther and farther away from this course of action) and how should/could/will it be integrated into the decentered opposition of congressional elections in 2006? We are stuck with Bush for three more years, and stuck with this horrible unilateral war, and their is a real exigency for Democrats -- first, and most difficult, in Congressional campaigns, perhaps in 2008 on the presidential level -- to form at least a somewhat unified or normative stance on the war that articulates, as well as possible, this middle position.

      By Blogger awol, at 5:46 PM  

    • re: awol

      Sure, I am close to Kerry and Clark except that they leave enormous wiggle room for a continuing U.S. controlled intervention. They don't explicitly say "when" or "how many" or even "how international."

      Further, I am saying, take the Korb and Katulis timeline and make that the timeline for fully internationalizing the mission. ie. One Year most U.S. troops gone. Two years, it is a fully U.N. operation in cooperation with the government of Iraq. Decisions about Iraq should be between the world body and the Iraqis, period. Further, I've yet to read anyone propose either a Persian Gulf security treaty or a "Partnership for a Post-Oil Middle East."

      Other than those quibbles, of course, you are right, I'm neither a WOT warrior or an OUT NOW protestor.

      I'm an "Internationalize now so we can get out with peace stability and justice for all Iraqis and build a post-oil world based on functioning international institutions and equitable development."

      Last time I checked that wasn't really the explicit Kerry/Clark public position...though you may be right that that is effectively their private one.

      I think what you do, awol, in collapsing my argument into a kind of "kerry-similar" terrain is ignore the process that I went through to get there and the importance of that "honest examination of the sources"...to folks from all political spectrums, and, in particular, to the pool of us progressives who might have attended the 9/24 march.

      It's important to talk about how political and cynically pre-emptive this war was exactly in order to then survey the proposals and weigh whether they get at the root of the Bush strategy and oppose it.

      There are real reasons to read and engage Korb and Katulis....or Michael Schwartz that are valuable in their own right. While my essay was by far too long. I don't regret that journey one bit. It makes my end point, even merely for myself personally, stronger terrain. I haven't read anyone else use the Nicaragua analogy about Iraq. It has some merit, even as a discussion point.

      Vis a vis what to do now: here are my strongest interests.

      Reading more about what the Iraqis have to say. Truly seeking out Iraqi voices and trying to understand what regular people and what the leadership think should happen next.

      Second, I want to write about a new kind of politics of opposition that counteracts the powerlessness that you highlight.

      It is, indeed three more years of Bush...and a long journey to win back a legislative majority if it is even possible in the near term. I don't see Democrats acting like a "shadow government"...I don't see them building majority opinion with forthright proposals and positions. It's all position and posture. It's tactical.

      I agree with those who say that a "politics of contrast" is essential now.

      In fact, a politics of contrast might be a powerful way of actually making political change happen in the U.S. both at the ballot box...and in court of public opinion and the halls of power.

      Thanks for your comments and forthright criticism...amigo. Always appreciate them.

      kid o.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:25 PM  

    • You write that I "ignore the process that [you] went through to get there" in my comment's suggestion that what you're presenting as an essentialy new or different perspective, at profound odds with mainstream Democratic discourse, is at the center of the Democratic perspective. This claim of "exceptionalism," however, studs all three of your essays: it seems to me, in fact, to be a key thruline for the essays as a whole. Thus the first sentence in the first essay (with your emphases):
      "One observation you can make in the ongoing debate on all sides about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq ... is how far removed from the context of any global, cooperative, far-sighted solution we've come." I think, in fact, many democrats -- and, most importantly, the Kerry campaign itself -- have long had an "internationalize the war" policy at the center of their campaign. In this context, I don't understand what gained by adopting a "party of one" stance about Iraq -- no one until this essay has laid out a solution that will work, this essay is going to lay out a new solution.

      By Blogger awol, at 8:18 AM  

    • Point well taken, awol.

      I should have branded this essay more as one, non-expert's effort to work through the material...because, at the end of the day, that is all that it is, really.

      (I get serious "blog head" sometimes, where if I haven't read it on the twenty to thirty blogs I frequent, I don't think it exists. Thanks for keeping me real.)

      Vis a vis Kerry. I really think you over-emphasize his endorsement of internationalism and a clear strategy ending the "U.S. led occupation." He mentioned "forswearing permanent bases" once as far as I could see, and I linked to that.

      Katerina vanden Heuvel made the distinction between Kerry's "internationalization of staying the course" with what she called an "Internationalization of Withdrawal"...she took as start points Ralph Nader's 6-month timetable and a "complete handover" to the Iraqis.

      Clearly, that six months is now up, and the situation on the ground in Iraq is not tenable or good for anyone. Maybe what I am saying is splitting hairs between the two view points but I think there's a distinction, as vanden Heuval points out, between "a bold plan" and an "open ended" position that could very well mean, as both Kerry and Clark's plans seem to leave open...further and deeper involvement of a U.S. led occupation in Iraq for years to come.

      If the Korb and Katulis proposal, one that gets most U.S. troops out in 12 months, could be put in the context of internationalization and regional cooperatoin and the deployment of the U.N. at the service of the Iraqis themselves...

      I think many on the anti-war left might embrace it, especially if it received official Iraqi support.

      In the context, a "bold vision" for the Middle East and energy policy would be even more powerful. ie. not simply "withdrawal" but engagement, investment and long term commitment to equitable partnership.

      Maybe that's in the Kerry material, but I don't remember Kerry talking like that.

      Thank you for your challenges, awol. I appreciate them.

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 10:36 AM  

    • Thanks for the response. In the Kerry link that you provide he comments "I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops," and promises that "he would substantially reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq." You say, however, that both "Kerry and Clark's plans seem to leave open...further and deeper involvement of a U.S. led occupation in Iraq for years to come."

      I think we have more of an interest in stressing the "internationalize the war" position as a *common* and *long-standing* policy alternative to Bush's war, rather than attacking this position as a Bush-lite, continue-the-war stance -- a characterization that I think is driven by the troops-out-now wing of the anti-war movement. However, I wouldn't even characterize this as a "troops-out-now wing" since I think this actually represents a sentiment that is widely shared -- if ultimatley repudiated -- by folks like you and me (or Clark or Kerry) who wish we could end the war, strongly feel that we should never have started it, but don't see any recourse other than the difficult and perhaps-impossible process of attempting to internationalize it.

      The unity of this camp I think comes into relief against the horror show of the last three days in Iraq: namely the unbelievable vote-tampering, two-thirds of registered voters rule which is now being decried -- rightly so -- by the United Nations. I think all of the internationalists can, and should, agree that the UN is absolutely right on this: but, of course, it is hard to see Bolton et al taking their lead from the UN. This is such an important moment because the failure of internationalization and the failure of democratization (as embodied in this horrible "rule change") goes hand-in-hand.

      Ironically, then, the last couple of days have provided a new moment for making the argument: Internationalize Now.

      By Blogger awol, at 1:24 PM  

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