Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Call it a day

Being a conservative doesn't gives one better antiwar bona fides than an unwashed leftie (like, say, me), but Andrew Bacevich brings a unique insider's authority to his harsh and articulate critique of American militarism and its many enablers.

His book The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War is a must-read. He makes an extremely convincing case that the world's most vibrant nation is being strangled by its military-industrial complex.

I don't find his solutions to the crisis particularly useful—they wouldn't change nearly enough for me and go too far for most—but I admit it: I don't have any better to offer.

Bacevich is a West Point grad, Vietnam vet, and former contributer to the Weekly Standard (!) and National Review (!!). One would hope that his arguments would reach audiences who don't typically read the Nation.

When this guy says it's time to call it a day in Iraq, I'm hoping some people of influence take notice. Maybe even a Democrat!

Will a U.S. withdrawal guarantee a happy outcome for the people of Iraq? Of course not. In sowing the seeds of chaos through his ill-advised invasion, Bush made any such guarantee impossible. If one or more of the Iraqi factions chooses civil war, they will have it. Should the Kurds opt for independence, then modern Iraq will cease to exist. No outside power can prevent such an outcome from occurring anymore than an outside power could have denied Americans their own civil war in 1861.

Dismemberment is by no means to be desired and would surely visit even more suffering on the much-abused people of Iraq. But in the long run, the world would likely find ways to adjust to this seemingly unthinkable prospect just as it learned to accommodate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the division of Czechoslovakia and the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

What will pulling out of Iraq mean for the United States? It will certainly not mean losing access to Iraqi oil, which will inevitably find its way to the market. To be sure, bringing the troops home will preclude the Pentagon from establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq -- but the Bush administration has said all along that we don't covet such bases anyway. In addition, withdrawal will put an end to extravagant expectations of using Iraq as a springboard for democratizing the Islamic world -- but that notion never qualified as more than a pipe dream anyway.

For Bush personally, the consequences of leaving Iraq might be the most painful. The prospect of looking antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan in the eye to explain exactly what her son died for will become even more daunting. But as it is, the president can't dodge that question indefinitely. Postponing the issue simply swells the ranks of those with similar questions to ask.

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