There’s a new trend developing among what’s loosely called the American peace-movement: attack those closest to you and blame them for the failure of the anti-war cause to get much traction. The problem is, we’re told, not enough people on the left will simply take a "Troops Out Now" position. And that reticence, we’re told, is balling up the movement.
I think exactly the opposite. The anti-war movement in this country has sputtered precisely because its leadership has insisted from the onset that everyone accept the formula of immediate withdrawl of all American troops from Iraq.
Americans, fortunately, ain’t that naïve. Unlike the more zealous ideologues who shout at them through bullhorns, they understand that one can have opposed the war intially, still oppose its conduct but NOT support immediate withdrawal. Not support it for a simple, rather self-evident reality; as awful as things are in Iraq, they would probably get even more barbarous and bloody in the vacuum of an American withdrawal. Sad, unfortunate, vexing, contradictory but nevertheless, true.
Let’s take a moment to compare and contrast these positions. Knee-jerk Lefty radio-lady Lara Flanders pens a giddy, barely comprehemsible piece on the morrow of the U.K. elections and concludes we all must now join hands and shout “Out Now!”
I had a bit of a struggle finding a two or three graph excerpt that coherently stated her thesis. Maybe you can do better when you the read her whole post. Here’s the best I could do:
Last year, one of our guests, a retired Washington Post reporter who covered Vietnam, said the political winds shifted on that war not because of anti-war protests but because Americans got tired of the war. They simply stopped giving the president the benefit of the doubt, and started doubting the war.
They started calling not just for the war to be deemed wrong, but for it to be ended; for troops to be brought home, now. Not one more death for a lie. It 's not going to get better; it's only going to get worse.
That's exactly what they've been saying in the UK and it's exactly what we've got to say more, more loudly, right here…
..You can never say this loud or clearly enough. Progressives don't have a proactive vision, we're told. We're too damn reactive, too negative? Well not on this. On this, we're the ones with the positive vision, nay demand. Troops out now. They're not going to do a bit of good. And they're just going to keep on dying, and killing.
I love that line: “they’re not going to do a bit of good.” That’s right, former Ba’athist fascists are killing Iraqi men, women and babies by the boatloads this week with car bombs. What earthly good could U.S. troops do in such a mess, anyway? Shouldn’t they just clear out and leave the Iraqis to swim through their own damn blood bath?
The always brilliant Juan Cole – a staunch opponent of the war – has for some months now argued cogently as to why the simplistic Out Now formula might be boffo in Berkeley but strictly nowhere in Basra. Here’s an excerpt from a Cole posting back in January where he explains his reticence to join the Out Now bandwagon:
Helena Cobban, veteran Middle East observer and journalist and a dear friend, argues against my anxieties at her web log. She can't understand why I think things could get worse if the US withdrew precipitously. I can't understand why it would be hard to understand. The Ba’athists would begin by killing Grand Ayatollah Sistani, then Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, then Ibrahim Jaafari, and so on down the list of the new political class. Then they would make a coup. Once they had control of Iraq's revenues, they could buy tanks and helicopter gunships in the world weapons bazaar and deploy them again against the Shiites. They might not be able to hang on very long, but it is doubtful if the country would survive all this intact. The Badr Corps could not stop this scenario, or it would have stopped all the assassinations lately of Shiite notables in the South, including two of Sistani's aides. Had the US not dissolved the Iraqi army, I'd be out in the streets now demanding an immediate US withdrawal. The failures of the Fallujah campaign made it amply clear that the US armed forces are unlikely to make headway against the guerrilla insurgency, and in the meantime are just making hundreds of thousands of Iraqis more angry. You will note that Sistani, who is not shy about these things, has not demanded an immediate withdrawal of US forces. In fact, I was told by a US observer of the scene in Najaf that a member of the marja'iyyah asked the US to take care of the Mahdi Army for them last summer.
There is a saying in Arabic, Ahl al-bayt a`lamu bima fi'l-bayt--the people of a house know best what is in the house. When Sistani says the US should set a timetable and go, then I think we should all support that. But the US has made a big enough mess in Iraq without compounding it by hanging the Iraqis out to dry and decamping suddenly. By the way, Iraqis have more than once pleaded with me to argue against precipitous withdrawal by the US.
Excellent, Dr. Cole! A much more sophisticated re-statement of the truism that things can always get worse. Just as opposing immediate withdrawal in no way means support for the war, does the evacuation of troops mean you really want or will get peace. Less troops in this case can mean more war, more wanton killing, more slicing up whatever remains of civil society there might be in Iraq.
For more in this debate, see David Corn's just released post on Arianna's just-launched Huffington Post. I'll also be doing some blogging there soon enough.