I have to admit—my position on the Iraq war has been taking a waffling lately. It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I was steadfast in my belief that not having an Iraq war was absolutely the right course of action, yet lately, I’ve been watching as everyone from Howard Dean to Steve Earle has demanded that we pull the troops out of Iraq and get them home where they belong.
That’s a sentiment I could embrace pretty easily, but there’s an annoying, contrarian thought that keeps crawling around in the back of my head and I just can’t get rid of it, no matter how much bug spray I use. The idea is this: if we pull out of Iraq early, not only will we have done irreparable damage to the people of that country, but we’ll be sticking them with our mess.
A fine mess it is, and one that, by the way, ends with Iraq either nurturing its infant democracy, breaking into several unstable warring parts, or turning into yet another repressive Islamic theocracy that I like to call Iran, Jr. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which of those is most likely. And which is least.
So, I’ve found myself in the unlikely position of defending “the surge,” even though it’s probably a silly idea (too little, too late) with a seriously silly name, brought to us by the gang who started all the trouble in the first place. I’ve defended sending over even more troops and seeing this thing through, even as I’ve had friends fighting for their lives in the Middle East. My lack of military service makes me feel like one of those war hawks who served very little or not at all, yet sends others to fight at the drop of a hat. What do we call those guys again? Oh, yeah…presidents.
Then I read about American soldiers who have written home and told their loved ones that the Iraqis have basically hung them out to dry. The Iraqi forces, it is said, don’t support the U.S. troops, they fight amongst themselves, they form secret or not-so-secret alliances with local warlords. That makes me believe that maybe enough is enough. Solving the problem with the help of the Iraqis seems difficult, but solving it with them working against us seems impossible. Maybe we really should bring our forces home.
Then there’s the “spilled grape juice” analogy that I discussed with a friend of mine recently. It seems to me, that if you spill grape juice all over someone’s sofa, the least you can do is pay to have it cleaned. Make no mistake, we spilled the grape juice. We may have meant well at the time, but the alternative Iraq sans U.S. invasion looks very different than the Iraq we’re stuck with now. If nothing else, common decency would put us in the position of trying to stabilize the country before we all go back to watching “Dancing with the Stars.”
Thus the waffling.
The only conclusion I can draw from all of this is that the U.S. is in a genuine no-win scenario. That doesn’t mean the terrorists have won, because I don’t think they have. What that means is that there is no good, clean end to the Iraq situation, no matter what course of action we choose. To paraphrase a line from the old movie “War Games,” the only way to win would have been not to play.
Do you think George W. Bush lays awake at night, musing that, like Waldo, the cure for Iraq is right there in front of him if only he can spot it? Me neither, but I’d like to think he loses a bit of sleep every once in a while.
Fortunately for him, the Democrats have parachuted into the Capitol bearing the perfect solution for the Republicans. Unfortunately for the Iraqis, the Democrats’ answer has nothing to do with fixing that country—they’re no smarter than anyone else when it comes to that, and the same no-win situation holds just as true no matter who’s in charge.
No, the Christmas present the Democrats hold in their hands is the face-saving that they are handing Bush and the Republicans, if only they’re smart enough to accept it. Sometime in the near future, Congress will send the President a bill with a date on it. That date will be the target for bringing American troops home. The President will veto that bill. Congress will be unable to override the veto, but will work with the President’s people on a new compromise bill that gets the troops out by a later date.
If they play their cards right, the core Republicans will rail against that new bill, telling us what a big mistake it is to set an artificial date for the end of a war. The president will sign the bill, all the while expressing reservations about the concept. In so doing, he can simultaneously unify his party, end the war, and dump responsibility for Iraq’s disastrous future squarely in the laps of the Democrats. “We didn’t wanna do it,” he’ll say. “They forced my hand. I said all along that pulling out was a bad idea, and they proved me correct.”
When your political enemies give you that nice of a gift, the least you can do is thank them with a nice steak dinner. At a bare minimum, Bush should send over a couple kegs of the good stuff.