Friday, December 08, 2006

Moral Country and Immoral World

The question remains. What do we do now? And what does our morality compel? So far, nobody wants to answer, so anyone with the moral courage to actually say what should be done, not what could be done, is to be applauded. So, give a hand to William M. Arkin (even if Atrios does think he's double plus ungood):

In the short term, the study group recommends an unclear and contradictory course for the American military. The call for the withdrawal of the U.S. "combat" troops is so qualified and hedged, I'm not sure that the headlines -- that the study group is calling for the removal of all combat brigades by early 2008 -- is even true. On the one hand, the group recommends that the independent conventional forces be removed. On the other, it calls for a significant force to stay, including special operations forces.

What the group is fundamentally proposing though is that the core of the U.S. military effort switches from independent combat to a combined U.S.-Iraqi effort.The number of U.S. personnel in uniform embedded in Iraqi units would increase significantly under this proposal.

Regardless of whether the president surges more forces to Iraq, whether or not he follows through on the study group's suggestion and indeed draws down independent U.S. combat brigades, builds a rapid reaction force, reduces the American footprint, the accelerated training mission is already underway.

Just like the imagined silver bullet of diplomacy with Iran and Syria, the tough question here is whether the training and advisory approach will make a difference. I don't think so for a number of reasons. First, we are assigning U.S. troops to an even more sensitive and intimate mission with Iraqi players when we have already shown time and again that we are culturally challenged when it comes to understanding the Iraqis. Second, we are shifting responsibility for the security and success of U.S. forces to another party, one whose motivations and capabilities are suspect.

This is not some back-handed stay the course argument. I think we should get out altogether.

But let's be realistic about what will likely unfold even if we adapt the group's proposal: First, there is the question again of waiting for the Iraqis to assume the responsibilities we are thrusting upon them. No wonder Baker and others speak of "years" of continued U.S. presence. Second there remains the question of Baghdad's authority and national mandate. It isn't clear that the Shi'a dominated government -- the faction of the Shiite-dominated government -- is interested in a national military for the purpose of bringing the country together.

I understand that this "new" solution is Washington's way of withdrawing without saying it is withdrawing. But there is too much hope associated with the shift: hope that if we just redouble our effort with the Iraqis, they will all of a sudden get it and transform. In here as well is the strange article of faith that less capable Iraqi military units will succeed where more capable U.S. units failed. It seems to me that if we are admitting that there is no military solution to the problem, there is no Iraqi military solution either.
And if there is not military solution, what do we do? Is there even a moral option open to a nation? Can we justify abandoning Iraq? Can we justify leaving our soldiers there to be killed or wounded?

The question remains open.

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