Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sigh. Still Missing the Point Entirely

While Ankush notes correctly that Mr. Dodd and Mr. Richardson are, to put it nicely, "long shots" at winning the nomination. (Though is that true? I'm told the Richardson has, at times, polled higher than Edwards...so, if we must accept Edwards as a favored candidate, surely that means Richardson is in the mix as well.) He's got the point in his hands but he fumbles it. Candidates like Dodd and Richardson are fighting to stay in the game, and, as I predicted, they're using "withdrawal" as one of the bargaining chips to do so, in a game of one-upsmanship that is wholly divorced from the reality of withdrawal. Again, this was the key takeaway from the Duffy article, and there's no refutation of that point offered.

At some point, the Dodds will cede the race to their betters. The field will narrow. Someone else will be fighting to stay in the game. Is there really any doubt that "Iraq withdrawal" will continue to be the key bargaining chip? Is there really any doubt that the candidates won't vie for the nomination with competing rosy scenarios and unrealistic promises? I hope I'm wrong, but I'm feeling altogether confident betting that number.

Ankush also, strangely, believes that "Hillary Clinton is advocating a policy that's rather similar to the one Duffy is putting forth." My first response is basically: "Really? That's not at all how I remembered it!" Let's take a look!

Duffy says very little about who might be left behind, but here's what he does offer: "After a majority of U.S. troops depart, a military presence of some size will still be needed — not so much to referee a civil war, as U.S. forces are doing now, but to try to keep it from expanding," and later, "Most plans for a reduced U.S. mission in Iraq — including the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, headed by James Baker III and Lee Hamilton — call for retaining a small counterterrorism force there." That's about as far as Duffy goes--there are other descriptions of "regional forces," but none are specifically defined as being bound inside Iraq.

So, Duffy says, at most--a force to contain the civil war (which I'll concede could be quite sizable and potentially "in country") and to operate counter-terror strikes. But, in a stark contrast, here's what Clinton says: "...she would keep a reduced military force there to fight al Qaeda, deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi military."

So, uhm...where's the "similarity?" I suppose that one could equate Duffy's "counterterrorism force" with Clinton's "fight al Qaeda." But deter Iranian aggression? Protect the Kurds*? Sorry...but that's heavy lifting, and it places a real limit on the number of troops that can be withdrawn (especially in the whole "protecting the Kurds" song and dance). That's even before we get to whatever the hell "supporting the Iraqi military" is--it sounds suspiciously like the time-honored argument for remaining in Iraq with the full forces we have! Plus, this "support" would likely include any number of civilian contractors that would need to be escorted out safely in the event of a phased withdrawal.

That said, Duffy very specifically keys into the need to prevent the Iraqi civil war from expanding. How, then, did Ankush not note the following glaring dissimilarity in Clinton's plan? It's laid out in the second graf of the NYT piece, for Christ's sake!: "In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from sectarian violence — even if it descended into ethnic cleansing."

So, I'm to believe that one plan, which makes pains to note that a key rationale for leaving troops in the region is to prevent the expansion of civil war, is "SIMILAR" to another plan, which makes pains to note that NOTHING WHATSOEVER WILL BE DONE about the civil war?

Wow. Just...wow.

This now makes a second fumbled attempt to parry my original contention. Looking forward to a third!

*What does "protecting the Kurds" even mean? Heading off violence that's directed at them? Fully supporting a independent Kurdistan or a regional partition? Who knows? Either way, it's a) gonna take a lot of troops, b) is precisely the sort of pretty-sounding thing you say when you're looking to connect with voters ("I'll see your "fight terrorists" and raise you "protecting the Kurds!"), and c) is really ignorant, in light of geo-political realities, vis-a-vis Turkey flat-out despising the very idea of even a semi-independent Kurdish "state" on their border.

No comments: