Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What the Anti-War Crowd Doesn't Need to Do

It's been a while, and it's going to be longer, before I can really post. And when I do, I'll return with a series of musings I've been writing since I began sleeping in my large, ancient, spooky house, one per night since Wednesday, in old-fashion pen and ink on a legal pad.

In the meantime, however, I urge you to take a few minutes to read this post, a propos the supposed burden on the anti-war Left to supply the Bush administration with what it has lacked ever since we entered into Iraq: a plausible, executable strategy with a clear mission and a concrete, articulable exit strategy.

I read the Juan Cole post Cooper links to, and I thought it represented a kind of policy fantasy, a pardonable effort at prophylaxis on the part of somebody who's been documenting just how relentlessly things are going to shit and must get tired of feeling completely hopeless most of the time. But I couldn't take it very seriously. A good detailed rebuttal, in terms of the ground realities in Iraq, comes from greenboy at Needlenose, for my money the best and most insightful Iraq war blog out there. More to the point (a point greenboy doesn't make)—who exactly is the audience for this sort of policy wanking supposed to be? Other than a tiny community of Beltway or Beltway-oriented intellectuals, or wannabes. The anti-war left is nowhere near the seat of power. Power is held, in fact, by a gang that regards opposition in general, and opposition to the war in particular, as tantamount to treason. We're supposed to have a nice, polite, national debate over an endgame strategy? Debate, with this crowd? Even if we had detailed, rational and realistic policy advice to give, they wouldn't listen to it. In fact, to the extent it was rational and realistic, and persuaded anybody, they'd likely run in exactly the opposite direction. We've had five years now, and people like Cooper still don't get the psychology of the Bush administration?

It's not "unserious" or "immature" or whatever other bullshit terms are favored by the Beltway types to advocate the simple message Out Now. On the contrary—advocating such messages is the only real political space within which we have to operate. Our job is not to pretend we're living under a different regime than we are, one that takes policy proposals seriously. Our job is to do the only thing we really can do, namely cause as much domestic pain as possible for Bush over the war. (Digby is entirely correct and on point about this.) You want to have a real effect on Iraq policy? Drive Bush's numbers down, drive the GOP's numbers down, take their Congressional majority away from them, take the White House back. That's not done with policy prescriptions—which (again, has Cooper been paying attention these last few years?) the vast majority of the American public will never hear, or hear an honest version of, anyway.

I reached this site by following a roundabout path including Body and Soul, where Jeanne writes:

Sixty percent of Americans may believe that US troops should stay in Iraq until the country is "stabilized," but while they may not want to think about the possibility of failure, they aren't completely delusional. More than half realize the war was a "mistake," and that the things are now going to hell.

We don't just need to make sure Bush owns the failure. He needs to own hell. For years, we've heard that if things weren't going well in Iraq, the anti-war left needed to propose solutions. (Followed by silence. Followed by, "See. We told you they don't have any solutions. Just a bunch of whiners.") That needs to be turned around. There's no if anymore. Americans have already realized this is a nightmare. They may not realize we have to leave, but they know perfectly well that continuing to do the same thing isn't cutting it. They're ready to hear the truth: Repeating the same mistakes over and over is the definition of madness. The president needs to tell us how he's going to "win" the war, and if he can't, he needs to tell us how he's going to get us out.

He needs to tell us. Pretending there are "solutions" just confuses the issue of who this hell belongs to.

Original hat tip goes to Bloodless, which writes not of exit / effective strategy issues but rather of a woeful case of quiet obfuscation of a well-documented and truly Hun-ish case of torture of a man American soldiers basically knew was innocent.

To that end, Bloodless also links Obsidian Wings, where simple gathering of sources and a select Bob Dylan lyric tells the entire tale of the ways in which our nation is humiliating itself and sundering its own stated values at every turn. It's your money, and the ObWi post is a very short, if painful read. I urge you to take a moment, and I won't sully it by excerpting it here.

I'll be back; but the above ought to keep thinking caring people of the right and the left busy for a few minutes.


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