The main issue for democrats on the national political scene looking toward the 06 and possibly 08 elections has been set. Iraq and an exit strategy. Despite their failure to convince the public that Iraq was a bad idea before we went, the view of things has finally swung and polling casts a dim light on both the administration and the war. Even in light of Bush’s recently released exit strategy and any additions to it that may be forthcoming, it is unlikely that they have any means left to stop this from being a defining electoral issue. The democrats have capitalized on this not only in the sense that it allows them to further put off their need for some serious introspection, but also because it seems to be a political winner. And it seems that all that is needed for a policy to be championed in Washington is that it be popular and harmful to the opposing party. I’m all for harming the other party, but the popularity of this issue and the administration’s inability to deal with it have lead to a situation in which the question of whether or not an exit strategy is the right policy to pursue. In the period before the attack on Iraq commenced, Michael Ignatieff wrote a piece that was published in New York Times Magazine entitled “The Burden.” There were a number of good points made in this essay, but one of them is that the immensity of what is involved in attacking Iraq is enormous, probably too much so for american politics to handle, and possibly to much so for american power to be able to handle.
“If America takes on Iraq, it takes on the reordering of the whole region. It will have to stick at it through many successive administrations. The burden of empire is of long duration, and democracies are impatient with long-lasting burdens — none more so than America.”
Backing a statement like this is the notion that all of the motivations of the adminstration aside (though in the big picture they should be thoroughly considered), there are some good reasons for going to Iraq. After all, what liberal was willing to say that Saddam should not have been taken out? Even with the best intentions, however, going to Iraq should have given us pause. Invading Iraq, particularly with the attempt at democratization, comes with it a commitment that America will not likely fulfill. Even if we don’t take up this commitment and limit ourselves to just dealing with Iraq, the long term outcome will only be in increase in terrorism and American resentiment. An invasion of Iraq requires America to live up to its true nature as an empire:
“This is finally what makes an invasion of Iraq an imperial act: for it to succeed, it will have to build freedom, not just for the Iraqis but also for the Palestinians, along with a greater sense of security for Israel. Again, the paradox of the Iraq operation is that half measures are more dangerous than whole measures. Imperial powers do not have the luxury of timidity, for timidity is not prudence; it is a confession of weakness.”
Though this only touches on the content of the article, it brings us back to the issue of the democrat’s strategy. It is a poor strategy because not only will it likely backfire politically, but will also do harm to those parts of what it means to be an American that make patriotism viable for contientious liberals. As Ignatieff points out, a partial solution is worse than nothing at all–the region will continue in chaos and turmoil and only make conditions worse in addition to harming the credability of democracy for the region. When everything collapses, any democrat in office is going to have some music to face. Conditions both real and political will be worse off for a hastier exit strategy. This is, of course, not to say that the current occupation strategy is the best one, but now that we are there we ought commit ourselves to the task at hand, even if we can’t quite reach it; even if we often fail to commit ourselves to tasks that are actually within our hands. One of the most problematic aspects of contemporary politics is the lack of integrity involved. If the democrats would take the time to find some principles and examine the condition of the US and the world, they might then have a decent foundation upon which they could take actions that are meaningful and backed by true conviction rather than the possibility of cheap political points. I implore you to look a little further next time the new anti-war rhetoric (exit) is being gilded by your local liberal and challenge yourself, your friends, and your leaders to have the conviction to bite the bullet and work for something that we could perhaps, for the first time in a long time, apply the notion of “The Good” to.