Actually, the time for a diplomatic solution was four years ago when it was more likely to succeed but there is still a chance for it to work. The New Republic says so too.
More importantly, the elections may terrify the Bush administration into a new course. While the administration’s defenders claim that it has exhausted diplomatic possibilities, this is true only in the sense that it has conducted grudging and occasional conversations with important regional players. But diplomacy is not just a cozy exercise in endless speech acts. It, too, must be brutal: It must include threats and promises, alliances and coalitions–with the threat of being left out. A new campaign should lay the groundwork for agreements prior to the calling of a peace conference that would include Iraq’s parties and its neighbors, as well as the United States, the European Union, and Russia.
I heard John McCain, on Meet the Press on Sunday, making a tricksy rhetorical point which seem to boil down to [paraphrasing]:
Of the three alternatives,
- Stay the course
- Send more troops
- Start withdrawing troops
#1 is completely stupid.
The only one I support – the only one that will avoid tragedy, the only one that will be successful – is #2. #2 is never gonna happen because its completely impractical, but I support it anyway.
And if we can’t do #2, we should do #3. But don’t blame me because I supported #2.
I can’t decide whether he is bravely standing up for an unpopular course of action that he believes is right or whether he is hiding behind a brave-sounding course of action because he knows there is no chance of it happening. The old John McCain would have done the former. I am not nearly so confident in the new John McCain.
I prefer the New Republic’s honesty:
All the study groups, all the Council on Foreign Relations white papers, and all the magazine symposia in the world won’t change the equation: There is no policy for Iraq that will provide moral and strategic satisfaction and no reason to believe that we might achieve something that could be plausibly described as victory. The coming debate over timetables and troop levels will likely generate much anger, shattering postelection illusions of bipartisanship and provoking intra-party squabbles. But, in the end, this struggle will be over the difference between a largely intolerable outcome and a completely intolerable one.
This magazine has long advocated deploying U.S. power to halt the mass slaughter of innocents. Saddam Hussein distinguished himself at the mass slaughter of innocents: About this, there can be no dispute. Yet, in this case, we supported an invasion that has led to the same savage result. Without an occupying power–and, perhaps, with one–Iraq could soon witness refugee crises, the sectarian mÃªlÃ©e spilling into neighboring countries, Al Qaeda bases sprouting across the Sunni Triangle, and massacres still greater than those that have already transpired.
I agree that we have a moral obligation to make things better. If there is a chance that we can bring some kind of solution by combining the promise that we will be outta there soon with a no-holds-barred diplomatic blitz involving the UN, the EU, Iran, Syria, Muqtada al-Sadr and the Archbishop of Canterbury, I say go for it.
One of my biggest regrets about Iraq is that has spoiled the pitch for liberal interventions in places such as Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur. Neo-cons and realists have been historically opposed to them on principle but by using ideas of spreading freedom as cover for their attempted power grab, they have discredited the whole idea. Realists would never have supported a future Kosovo intervention anyway, but now they can point to the failures in Iraq and say “See! Those things never work!”. Apparently the New Republic takes a more pragmatic line…
At this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war. The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom. But, as we pore over the lessons of this misadventure, we do not conclude that our past misjudgments warrant a rush into the cold arms of “realism.” Realism, yes; but not “realism.” American power may not be capable of transforming ancient cultures or deep hatreds, but that fact does not absolve us of the duty to conduct a foreign policy that takes its moral obligations seriously. As we attempt to undo the damage from a war that we never should have started, our moral obligations will not vanish, and neither will our strategic needs.
... but the hardline Republicans in Congress will be intervention shy for many years to come.
But if that fails, I am inclined to agree with Galbraith’s conclusion in last week’s debate: if we stay, we are only making it worse. Better to get out and let the civil war take its course. Galbraith says they last about 14 years