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February 24, 2008



Beinart's message is not only a minority opinion in American Liberalism, it has been abandoned by Beinart himself.
I think it's safe to say that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee, and Obama will. It is now Democratic Party dogma that radical Islam was cooked up by Fox News and Karl Rove. To suggest otherwise is to be expelled from polite Liberal society.
The rub will come when Obama seeks to moderate his irresponsible promises for an immediate and total withdrawal from Iraq. Today Ralph Nader announced his candidacy and will counter each such attempt with the claim that he, not Obama, is the true anti-war candidate.

Kellie Strøm

Even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, wouldn't she be in a very weak position to pursue the kind of foreign policy that we'd like to see, as a result of her changed position on Iraq, and as a result of the tight race for the nomination? It would be back to the '90s, checking opinion polls before every single foreign policy decision.

Seymour Paine

The problem with our venture in Iraq, which I oppose, is contained in your article. You quote with approval Hitchen's criticism of American Liberalism (i.e., the Democrats) on Iraq that to be true to the spirit of Liberalism, Liberals should have heartily supported the attack on Iraq, to eliminate the dictatorship of Hussein. Later on in your piece you cite Jeffrey Herf attacking the Democrats for being soft on Islamism. The problem with Iraq is that our invasion has traded one form of fascism (Hussein) with another (Sadr, the Sunni insurgents, and other terrorists now basically running free there). They mention Roosevelt. Roosevelt didn't rush us into war with Germany because it was a fascist menace to Europe perpetrating cruel horrors on civilians. It took the attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's subsequent declaration of war on the US to give Roosevelt reason enough to enter the war. Up to then, public opinion was against any European venture and Roosevelt, then and throughout the war period, was attune to public opinion. We went to war against the Nazis not because it was the right thing to do, but because our national existence was threatened. This is exactly the opposite of what Bush did. He ignored public opinion and skewed the facts (a polite way of saying he lied repeatedly about Iraq's role in 9/11) and forced us into a venture without the backing of the American people and without making a case that our national existence was threatened. During WWII, in alliance with Churchill and Stalin, Roosevelt was confident, at least by 1943, that victory would be ours. Now, more years than we were in Europe then, we are still fighting the same enemy in Iraq and I doubt there is anyone who has confidence Iraq would be stable if we left. We had an exit strategy in Europe (much to Churchill's dismay; he wanted us there for a longer time in much greater numbers than we originally planned). We have none in Iraq. There are many bad actors in the world besides Hussein. Why not Mugabe? Why not fight the on-going genocide in Tibet? Why not Burma? Check out Basra, now that the British have cravenly snuck away. It's turned into a thuggocracy. Iraq itself, so unsafe after all these years, I don't believe any of our political leaders have ever made an publicly announced visit with a public itinerary. They sneak in and sneak out, "surprise" visits they are politely called. Would we have fought the Nazis if we thought that we would only trade one fascist clique for another? That is exactly what we got in Iraq. Women murdered for being thought impious; gay people tortured routinely; fascism in the form of Islamism ruling the country (with a similar fate taking hold in Afghanistan). The only lesson to be drawn from our experience in WWII is that the Bush Administration ignored that lesson, and we are paying a terrible price for that.

Kellie Strøm

Re. Seymour Paine's comment: I hadn't noticed that the US had exited Europe. When did this happen?


We went to war against the Nazis not because it was the right thing to do, but because our national existence was threatened.

Hollywood has lied to me!

This is exactly the opposite of what Bush did.

The world now is not the world of 1939 (or 1941). There is no elsewhere for America to withdraw into glorious isolation from.


Seymore Paine asks "Why not (invade)Burma, or depose Mugabe?".
The answer is that neither of these regimes (however evil they are) threaten the West on its own soil.
How many people in the West really worried about the hundreds of thousands of deaths (many from chemical WMD) in the Iran/Iraq war? Be honest.
What changed it all, as Blair correctly identified, was 9/11. With WMD capability a similar future attack would kill many many more and cause major disruption to our infrastructure. The containment of this threat should be at the centre of both Democrat and Republican foreign policy.


Seymour, you state that the US had an exit strategy in Europe after WW2. It certainly did, but reversed it quickly enough when the credible threat of Soviet aggression confirmed Churchill's original opinion. Would we have fought the Nazis if we thought that we would only trade one fascist clique for another? Well, I've met more than one 'anti-war' Trot who has believed that the West German SPD was an ill-disguised fascist clique, so I tend to make my own mind up about which grouping actually is fascist. When it comes to radicial, anti-semitic irridentist nationalist paramilitary muderers and mass-murdering theocratic jihadists I personally prefer to support the secular democrats, however imperfect they may be, and even if they have the bad taste to be supported by American armed force. If you want to learn a lesson from WW2, consider how things might have been changed if the fascists were challenged by military force early enough, or how securing a democratic Europe required a fify-year military commitment after a war involving the deaths of hundreds of thousands of US servicemen.


One of the most worrying aspects of Obama's foreign policy rhetoric (it can hardly be called a platform) is that it implies that he shall be able to make consequence-free foreign policy choices. Even if one takes for granted the usual disparity between campaign rhetoric and the cold reality and responsibility that comes with elected office, Obama's foreign policy stance comes across as almost half-baked.
Even if Obama is able to withdraw all US troops from Iraq, he has not explained how he would prevent the Iranian rush to fill the resulting power vacuum, and the inevitable Sunni Arab response to that. Talking with the likes of Tehran, as Obama has stated he would do, will, in and of itself, do nothing to act as a guarantee against bad Iranian behavior in the region. Much of the American electorate, including a lot of Republicans, are besotted with Obama and his message of hope and change, but they may live to regret their exuberance.

Seymour Paine

We have no exit strategy in Iraq; quite the opposite. If the GOP has its way, we'll be there basically forever, at great expense. And for what? To prop up a deeply anti-Semitic, Islamist government? To play whack-a-mole? With our supposedly vastly superior military (over WWII), we haven't been able to prevail against a ragtag enemy, who posses virtually no firepower (as compared to a real army; I'm not minimizing the effects of IEDs on out troops, but this is really nothing compared to what a real military can dish out). Furthermore, we act like barely tolerated guests. Much of Iraq doesn't want us there. We permit groups like the Madhi army to run free and call the shots in some areas (Basra). But at the end of the day, Iraq was, as most Americans believe, not a threat to the US. The evidence against it was concocted (like Powell's unfortunate appearance at the UN attests). There were no WMDs. Like Hitler's atomic bomb project: There in theory, not in actuality.

We simply cannot afford to do everything, everywhere. This was our greatest worry during WWII: Could we afford to fight both Japan and Germany at the same time. And, of course we did, partly because the American people understood it was in their interest to do so. That is definitely not the case now. We were manipulated into this venture by lies and cooked data by an Administration that thought we'd be treated like heroes; in and out in a flash, on the cheap.

As for secular democrats in Iraq, I ask: How can you have secular democrats in an Islamist country? Could a Jew run for office? (He would be killed just walking down the street.) All our participation there has done is create a power vacuum and give Iran a way in. Oh, and the resources committed to Iraq cannot be used in Afghanistan, where, uh, our actual enemies were given safe haven and where, to our shame, we are basically back to square one.


Seymour, you may not like the current 'exit strategy' for Iraq, which consists of supporting a democratically-elected government against fascist and theocratic terrorists, but that doesn't mean that 'an exit strategy' doesn't exist. As for prevailing over the insurgents, there is no decisive victory by conventional military means in an insurgency, but sufficient resources intelligently applied can reduce insurgent violence and permit the political developments required to marginalise the militants to take place. It's taken the best part of four years for the US military to accept that, but now that they have done they are evidently making substantive progress against the insurgency. The Mahdi army isn't the only grouping in Basra, as the conflict between paramilitaries and the Iraqi forces there over the past couple of weeks should indicate. I must say your parallel between Saddam and Hitler seems a little ill-advised; that Hitler's atomic bomb project was far behind the western allies doesn't change the basic fact that he was an aggressive genocidal tyrant who needed to be removed by a major war after appeasment failed. As for WMD's, they may well have been the figleaf for justifying western military intervention; but now there is a democratic government in Iraq, and I prefer to see the west directly supporting it rather than withdrawing, as I suspect many critics would if only the US administration involved was different.

How can we have secular democrats in an Islamist country? Well, Iraq does have a history of secular nationalism, and a sense of identity quite seperate from jihadi fantasy. But we certainly won't have many secular democrats left there if we abandon them to the guys who like chlorine-bombing, suicide-bombing using the mentally-handicapped, and running sado-recreational torture dungeons to decapitate secular democrats in.

Seymour Paine

Gavin: You look at Iraq and see a democratically elected government making slow but steady progress in bringing that country stability and a hopeful future.

I look at Iraq and I see a government foisted on them by the U.S., a government with absolutely no power; an army and police force with highly questionable loyalties (really, not questionable at all: they are loyal to militias). A country in name only where the three large groups loathe each other and don't want to be together; where real power is held by shadowy militias and unelected Islamic leaders and where we, like the British before us, are sinking into a quagmire. A country that, no matter when we leave it, will relapse quickly into three or more highly armed camps. After six years of massive military presence our leaders have to sneak in and out, as quickly as possible.

Kellie Strøm

It was really sly the way the US got 70% of the electorate in Iraq to foist that government on their own country. And people think Bush is dumb? What a fox!


Seymour, I see Iraq and see a government 'foisted on them' by the Iraqi electorate, and I'd rather see that government and that electorate supported against theocratic, fascist, factional and sectarian terrorism than abandoned while at the same time making some hypocritical claim that that abandonment represents a triumph for progressive values. As I've stated, and as the British experience indicates historically, Iraq has always had a substantial secular and nationalist identity alongside the factional, ethnic and sectarian divisions you seem to want to entrench. And I think you should be a little less quick to invoke the British imperialist experience in Iraq as a 'quagmire', as I suspect the current US administration would have been extremely satisfied to match the speed with which the British defeated the 1920 Iraqi rebellion and the Rashid Ali coup.

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