Quote of the week

(Updated Below)

I thought it’d be nice to start off today with a great quote:

“Maybe a race of alien lizards will land in Mosul and commence their program of world conquest, in which case it would be odd to stick with the 16 month withdrawal timeline…”Matthew Yglesias

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Update

Obama has been busy this week reinforcing his strategic vision for our foreign policy. In his Monday op-ed for the NYT he calls for a careful withdrawal of our combat troops from Iraq to be accompanied by a “surge” of troops to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Obama stated his reasoning for this repositioning of our forces very clearly in a speech he gave yesterday:

What’s missing in our debate about Iraq – what has been missing since before the war began – is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq and its dominance of our foreign policy. This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.

My younger brother has argued that Obama’s Iraq stance lacks a moral component. I agree. Obama wants to leave Iraq because it’s bad for the United States, not because it’s perpetuating an evil on the Iraqi people.

Perhaps that’s why Obama keeps reiterating his desire for a residual force of an undetermined size in Iraq:

I have never talked about leaving the field entirely. What I’ve said is that we would get our combat troops out of Iraq, that we would not have permanent bases in Iraq.

I’ve talked about maintaining a residual force there to ensure that al Qaeda does not re-form in Iraq, that we’re making sure that we are providing logistical support and potential training to Iraqi forces – so long as we’re not training sectarian armies that are then fighting each other – to protect our diplomats, to protect humanitarian efforts in the region.

So, nobody’s talking about abandoning the field.

For the record, I don’t think this makes much sense in the long term. If we are to believe the news coming out of Iraq, Al Qaeda has been more or less purged from Iraq. We should be training the Iraqis to train other Iraqis, and we don’t need troops in Iraq to protect other efforts in “region.” We’ve got carriers in the Gulf for that.

But maybe Obama doesn’t mean for this to be a long term commitment. I’m not sure.

Either way, his stance is miles ahead of McCain’s. McCain isn’t proposing an immediate drawn down of forces. He wants permanent bases. He expects NATO to send more troops to Afghanistan, etc. More importantly, McCain doesn’t recognize that our very presence in Iraq foments anti-American sentiment and breeds terrorism.

9 Comments

  1. Ian

    You are contradicting yourself a little, “More importantly, McCain doesn’t recognize that our very presence in Iraq foments anti-American sentiment and breeds terrorism.” Right after you have said, “If we are to believe the news coming out of Iraq, Al Qaeda has been more or less purged from Iraq.” So you basically said was what McCain stands for breeds terrorism, but what he stands for also eliminates terrorism.

    My opinion is, Obama is right about Afghanistan to an extent since the guys over there at least had something to do with attacks on our soil. Saddam never attacked the US on our soil and he didn’t have anything to do with 9/11. Osama bin Laden did do these things and Bush has completely directed our military focus from going after the people responsible for 9/11 to… well… I don’t even know what you want to call the Iraq War. Unfortunately, Osama has since moved to Pakistan (maybe, thats what they say now anyways). A surge in Afghanistan could make up for “progress” we made when we originally went in there, but again I think its just diverting attention away from what we should focus on, which is OBL. Making terrorists be damned, we should get that guy. Its not like a full scale invasion would be necessary either. I’m sure a planned strike by our special forces could handle it.

    As far as bases go in Iraq, I think that can be an OK thing if it were done properly. I mean, is an embassy an imperialistic thing? Obviously a military base isn’t an embassy (one is for diplomacy and the other is for the opposite). As long as our soldiers aren’t walking down the streets with guns or shooting any Iraqi’s, I don’t see it as that big a deal fundamentally. I can see how you would argue against it though and I am not saying I am for bases, but they aren’t really that bad a thing if the soldiers there aren’t actively fighting in the country. Look at bases in the US. They become the economic lifeblood of towns that sprout up around them. Its not 100% bad.

    As far as our soldiers in Iraq go, I think that we should maintain troop levels at the number necessary to ensure stability of the country and allow for rebuilding. That number all depends on the current status of the country. If Iraqi soldiers are trained and can hold things together, then our numbers over there can be reduced. As things progress, our numbers should go down until eventually we aren’t needed at all.

  2. Chris

    So you basically said was what McCain stands for breeds terrorism, but what he stands for also eliminates terrorism.

    I think McCain’s position is self-evidently wrong. We’ve spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives to get back to where we were before 2003.

    I mean, is an embassy an imperialistic thing?

    The embassy we’re building certainly seems so.

    [bases] aren’t really that bad a thing if the soldiers there aren’t actively fighting in the country.

    I think that requires us to ignore the recruiting statements of jihadists. If the Iraqi people want us there, we should stay, but all signs (Iraqi opinion polls) are pointing us to the door.

  3. Ian

    “I think McCain’s position is self-evidently wrong. We’ve spent billions of dollars and thousands of lives to get back to where we were before 2003.”

    Thats cool and all, but you still contradicted yourself.

    “The embassy we’re building certainly seems so.”

    OK, so like, back that up or something with a source maybe. Embassies are supposed to be considered territory of the country they belong to. Everyone has them. They typically aren’t considered imperialist.

    “I think that requires us to ignore the recruiting statements of jihadists.”

    I think we have had a lot of conversations about this before. Again, I ask, why should we pander to terrorists opinions?

  4. Chris

    Thats cool and all, but you still contradicted yourself.

    Not really. Don’t forget, Al Qaeda has always made up a small percentage of the resistance to our occupation.

    OK, so like, back that up or something with a source maybe.

    Details about the embassy compound plans: http://thinkprogress.org/2007/05/29/photos-embassy-iraq/
    Highlights: $500+ million for construction, $1.2 billion in yearly upkeep, size 104 acres, gym, food court, apartments, powerplant, water treatment, etc.

    Again, I ask, why should we pander to terrorists opinions?

    I addressed that in the second half of my previous argument, “If the Iraqi people want us there, we should stay, but all signs (Iraqi opinion polls) are pointing us to the door.”

  5. Ian

    “Highlights: $500+ million for construction, $1.2 billion in yearly upkeep, size 104 acres, gym, food court, apartments, powerplant, water treatment, etc.”

    How is this imperialism? Because its lavish by embassy standards? Maybe look up imperialism. Its only imperialism if we rule their government. You can say we do, but thats irrelevant to the embassy issue.

    “I addressed that in the second half of my previous argument”

    I think the two are unrelated. We should care about Iraqi public opinion, since we are occupying their country. We should not care about the opinions of those who are members of a terrorist organization who just want to kill us. I think I said it before, but OBL should not dictate our foreign policy. We should be working to change our behavior and thus change Iraqi public opinion to be more favorable of us so that they would be less likely to listen to Al Qaeda and the like. We should NOT care what Al Qaeda’s opinion is.

  6. Chris

    How is this imperialism? Because its lavish by embassy standards?

    Why would you need an embassy so big if you weren’t intending on pretty much running the country from there?

    It’s also imperialistic because it looks down on the surrounding people who live in poverty without basic utilities like clean water and electricity.

    We should NOT care what Al Qaeda’s opinion is.

    Knowing and understanding your enemy will make it more likely you’ll defeat them.

    If we address Al Qaeda’s legitimate grievances, we can eliminate major components of their recruiting message and thin their ranks. Would you like to argue that opposition to bases is an illegitimate grievance?

  7. Ian

    “Why would you need an embassy so big if you weren’t intending on pretty much running the country from there?”

    How do you connect points A and B there in the logic? That isn’t an argument, its baseless speculation.

    “It’s also imperialistic because it looks down on the surrounding people who live in poverty without basic utilities like clean water and electricity.”

    This is ridiculous and has no bearing on imperialism. Serious, it is no where even close to the definition of imperialism. “Looks down”? Really, a facility has the capability of judgment now? If so, does it not look down on poor people everywhere, not just locals?

    “Knowing and understanding your enemy will make it more likely you’ll defeat them.”

    Yeah but that says nothing about needing to pander to them.

    “If we address Al Qaeda’s legitimate grievances, we can eliminate major components of their recruiting message and thin their ranks. Would you like to argue that opposition to bases is an illegitimate grievance?”

    I would argue that Al Qaeda’s grievances are not really focused on bases in Iraq. It might be a recent addition to their long list, but I think there are other things higher up for them. Like Palestine for example. If Al Qaeda’s grievances are legitimate, they can express them without the use of crashing planes into buildings. If such grievances are held by the Iraqi people, I think I said I agree we should work to address them. We should not change ourselves to pacify our enemy. That’s like saying we should’ve just killed the Jews in the world to make Hitler cool out. I just Godwined this thread.

  8. Chris

    That isn’t an argument, its baseless speculation.

    I’ll grant you that it’s speculation. I don’t think it’s baseless.

    Yeah but that says nothing about needing to pander to them.

    Addressing legitimate grievances is not pandering. Just like negotiating is not appeasing.

    If Al Qaeda’s grievances are legitimate, they can express them without the use of crashing planes into buildings.

    By choosing to irrationally respond to that crime, we can make things a lot worse for ourselves. Are you arguing that we shouldn’t leave Iraq because Al Qaeda wants us to?

    That’s like saying we should’ve just killed the Jews in the world to make Hitler cool out.

    His hatred of Jews is a good example of an illegitimate grievance.

  9. Ian

    “Are you arguing that we shouldn’t leave Iraq because Al Qaeda wants us to?”

    Yes. I am instead arguing that we should should leave Iraq because the people want us to. I am arguing that we should set clear and achievable goals that when met will result in troop reduction until the point that all troops are removed. We should also work to define how these goals can be achieved and work to achieve them ASAP.

    “His hatred of Jews is a good example of an illegitimate grievance.”

    While I agree with this statement, I would like to point out that “legitimacy” is certainly in the eye of the beholder.