Sunday, September 14, 2008

Serious Question For Obama Backers

Engram at BackTalk Blog, a registered Democrat and college research professor who has documented the up's and down's of the entire Iraq war piece by piece, almost day by day... ask's Obama supporters this important question.

" you support the man even though his plan for Iraq, had it been put into action, almost certainly would have led to a horrific humanitarian catastrophe and a strategic disaster for the United States?"

Engram Writes: "The idea that the withdrawal of US forces at the height of al-Qaeda-induced sectarian violence would finally induce the warring factions to reconcile is the issue I focus on today.
It speaks to the much-vaunted judgment of Barack Obama, and his judgment on the issue is, by far, the main reason why I would not consider voting for him (even if Jacob Weisberg will think of me as a racist). Would the withdrawal of US forces at the height of violence have led to peace and harmony in Iraq? That's the question.

The editors of the New York Times agree with the editors of the Washington Post that the withdrawal of US troops would not have achieved that outcome, but, like Barack Obama, they favored withdrawing our troops anyway:

The Road Home

July 8, 2007

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.
While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.
Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.
One of Mr. Bush’s arguments against withdrawal is that it would lead to civil war. That war is raging, right now, and it may take years to burn out. Iraq may fragment into separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics, and American troops are not going to stop that from happening.

It is possible, we suppose, that announcing a firm withdrawal date might finally focus Iraq’s political leaders and neighboring governments on reality. Ideally, it could spur Iraqi politicians to take the steps toward national reconciliation that they have endlessly discussed but refused to act on.

But it is foolish to count on that, as some Democratic proponents of withdrawal have done.

As you can see, except for acknowledging its inhumane consequences, Barack Obama and the editors of the New York Times are in complete agreement about what to do about Iraq (i.e., withdraw our troops, the innocent people of Iraq be damned).

On his web site, Barack Obama simply asserted the fantasy that even the editors of the New York Times would endorse (and the editors of the Washington Post clearly reject):

Since 2002, and now, as a U.S. Senator, Senator Obama has continued to critique the Administration's mishandling of this war, and believes that while our troops have done an outstanding job in Iraq, there can be no military solution to what is inherently a political conflict between Iraq's warring factions. The only hope to end this burgeoning civil war is for Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds to come together and resolve their differences, and that's why Senator Obama agrees with the Iraq Study Group's conclusion that we must begin a phased redeployment of American troops to signal to the government and people of Iraq that ours is not an open-ended commitment.

[note: the current text on his web site is different, so you'll just have to trust me that this is what it said previously]. That is, he really seems to be suggesting that the withdrawal of US forces during the height of sectarian violence induced by al Qaeda's suicide bombers would bring peace and tranquility to Iraq. My problem with this claim is that it is never backed by any substantive analysis. It is merely an assertion, as if making an assertion is making an argument. "Foolish" is the word that the editors of the New York Times use to characterize this way of thinking. Obama refers to the Iraq Study Group to support his preposterous notion, which seems to offer some analytical backing for his claim, but he seems not to have actually read their report:

Iraq is vital to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests...It has the world’s second-largest known oil reserves. It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including al Qaeda.
A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe...Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations.
As one Iraqi official told us, “Al Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald’s.” Left unchecked, al Qaeda in Iraq could continue to incite violence between Sunnis and Shia. A chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally. Al Qaeda will portray any failure by the United States in Iraq as a significant victory that will be featured prominently as they recruit for their cause in the region and around the world. Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy to Osama bin Laden, has declared Iraq a focus for al Qaeda: they will seek to expel the Americans and then spread “the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq.” A senior European official told us that failure in Iraq could incite terrorist attacks within his country.
A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined above. The near-term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilization, and a threat to the global economy. Al Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as a historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return.

Does that sound like an endorsement of the idea than the withdrawal of US troops during the height of violence would lead to peace and harmony among the various factions in Iraq? The relevant National Intelligence Estimate made the same point:

If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the ISF would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution; neighboring countries—invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally—might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; AQI [i.e., al Qaeda in Iraq] would attempt to use parts of the country—particularly al-Anbar province—to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.

The Iraq Study Group, The National Intelligence Estimate, common sense, and the editors of both the fairly liberal Washington Post and the ultra-liberal New York Times all agree that the withdrawal of US forces at the height of al-Qeada-induced sectarian violence in Iraq would have likely precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet Barack Obama simply asserts otherwise to justify his seemingly inhumane proposal to withdraw our forces back in January of 2007 (which is when the troop surge was just getting underway).

It is reasonable for Obama to have opposed the invasion of Iraq. Many sensible people were on that side of the argument (though I'm not sure that history will judge that position to be the correct one if Iraq continues on its current path). But to have proposed withdrawing our troops at a time when 3000 civilians a month were dying in Iraq based on the flimsy theory that our departure would scare the warring sectarian factions into finally reconciling their differences (as if 3000 dead per month were not scary enough) reveals the virtual absence of (not the presence of) sound judgment.

If you support Barack Obama for president, my question to you is this: do you really believe that violence in Iraq would have abated had we withdrawn our troops at the height of sectarian violence (despite all evidence to the contrary), or do you support the man even though his plan for Iraq, had it been put into action, almost certainly would have led to a horrific humanitarian catastrophe and a strategic disaster for the United States?

Great question Engram,

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