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May 01, 2007

Even A Liberal Notices: Democrats Are "Illiterate" And Willfully, Cynically Blind About Iraq

Smokin' piece from The New Republic (registration required; try usuck/usuck).


Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. But, when Nancy Pelosi confessed last year that she felt "sad" about President Bush's claims that Al Qaeda operates in Iraq, she seemed to be disputing what every American soldier in Iraq, every Al Qaeda operative, and anyone who reads a newspaper already knew to be true. (When I questioned him about Pelosi's assertion, a U.S. officer in Ramadi responded, incredulously, that Al Qaeda had just held a parade in his sector.) Perhaps the House speaker was alluding to the discredited claim that Al Qaeda operated in Iraq before the war. Perhaps. But the insinuation that Al Qaeda's depredations in Iraq might be something other than what they appear to be has become a staple of the congressional debate over Iraq. Thus, to buttress his own case for withdrawal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We have to change course [away from Iraq] and turn our attention back to the war on Al Qaeda and their allies"--the clear message being that neither plays much of a role there.

What is going on here? There are two possibilities: First, Reid and Pelosi could be purposefully minimizing the stakes in Iraq. Or, second, they don't know what they're talking about. My guess is some combination of the two. Political maneuvering certainly contributes to the everyday pollution of Iraq discourse. But a lot of the pollution derives from legislators being functionally illiterate about the war over which Congress now intends to preside....

...

Obliviousness, after all, has its uses. It comforts the sensibilities of politicians whose varying levels of awareness allow them to favor certain facts and not others....

Most of all, illiteracy makes for good politics. There is the conviction, to paraphrase McCain, that winning a war takes precedence over winning an election. But it isn't so clear that this conviction guides a partisan brawl in which the Senate majority leader can gush, "We're going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war."

...

Though Reid has no use for the Bush administration's military "surge," he does propose a "surge in diplomacy," in line with the cliché that the war has no military solution. As The Washington Post's David Broder has pointed out, "Instead of reinforcing the important proposition ... that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can succeed...." In fact, the one brand of diplomacy that truly matters in Iraq--the U.S. Army's tribal diplomacy, which accounts for the recent turn-around in Anbar Province--is precisely the mission that Reid's demand for a skeleton force would shut down.

Where all this leads is clear. Piece together a string of demonstrably false "facts on the ground" from a suitably safe remove, and you're left with a scenario where we can walk away from Iraq without condition and regardless of consequence. You don't need to watch terrified Iraqis pleading for American forces to stay put in their neighborhoods. You don't need to read the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which anticipates that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal will end in catastrophe. Why, in the serene conviction that things are the other way around, you don't even need to read at all. Chances are, your congressman doesn't either.



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posted by Ace at 07:49 PM

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