Cost of the War in Iraq
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Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Rambling Diatribe by Kevin E. Cleary

In my mind, military interventions are analogous to a sort of booby-trap. Some we have set up, and others we have stepped into. Like that trap in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we've taken the statue off the pedestal in Iraq, but now we've got to keep that same weight on the pedestal or a giant boulder will crash on us and the Iraqi people. For instance, our troop presence in South Korea acts as a similar pedestal-trap against North Korea. They know that if they knock us off the pedestal there, a giant boulder will roll over North Korea. Through the years, we've placed a number of weights in a number of different booby traps, and in many cases we calculated properly, in others we got rolled by boulders.

In my mind, we miscalculated in Iraq, and now refuse to recalculate. We stormed into Bagdad with a fighting army, but not an overwhelming force. Therefore, we had no one to keep order once we disbanded the Iraqi army, and let them keep their weapons. If we intended to stay in Iraq, why didn't we plan for the post-war? If we didn't plan to stay, why did we disband the army who largely didn't fight us? Right now, I'm not even arguing about the morality of the war, or whether or not it was right to invade. I'm merely questioning the way we have conducted this war from the outset, and the way this administration has run things since then. We sent an underwhelming force into Bagdad using the Clinton-air strike methodology (Shock and Awe! Three weeks to Bagdad... Yay! We made it to Bagdad! ...oh shit we're stuck in Bagdad! Whadda we gonna do now?!), but with boots on the ground as well. Unfortunately, we didn't provide our troops with proper supplies like body armor, and we told our allies to screw themselves before we went into the conflict. We also fired competent translators and managers/planners, etc. because of stupid policies like "don't ask, don't tell," which Clinton, as Commander in Chief, should have had the balls to end, but he didn't.

I understand that there were mitigating circumstances that would have held up the war if we waited for the UN inspectors, such as the Oil for Food bribery scandal, etc. But at the very least, we should have had the patience to sort it out before we went and invaded. I think one of the reasons the insurgency was initially emboldened was that they felt we were vulnerable and were trying to restructure their country without help. Pre-emptive or not, I think we all know that we would have had enough time (remember "gathering threat?") to plan this thing a whole hell of a lot better than we did. He also sold Congress (mostly the Democrats) on voting for the resolution as a gunboat diplomacy tactic, and then attacked them with their votes during the campaign because they were stupid enough to believe him, and/or stupid enough to think that they could believably use that as an excuse after the fact.

Now, we're there to stay. Probably for a generation or more, and we don't really have a choice now that we broke it and bought it. I understand that we can't just pull out now, but the administration still hasn't been honest about its missteps. It's my hope that if the Dems get it together, we might see some real accountability, and some real corrective steps. If not, we'll continue to compound the problem, regardless of who we put in the Oval and the Capitol.

If I were George Bush, (which thankfully I'm not, though the money would be nice... :-) I'd throw the ball in the Democrat's court. I'd say, look, I've got two years left, we're staying, so get your hands dirty and help out. The first thing I'd do is appoint Hillary Clinton to run Iraq. Then, when she quit after six months, after giving up on the mid-term, or being unable to run because of her position, I'd replace her with McCain or someone actually competent from the Dems. That would effectively neutralize any chance she'd have of ever winning the Presidency, and it would make the Democrats also share accountability for events on the ground, which would hopefully improve somewhat. Then, to show I mean business and that I'm really sincere that I want this to work, I'd fire Rumsfeld and humbly ask Colin Powell to come back as SecDef.

Condi stays where she's at, and just for fun, we pull Bolton from the UN and put him in as Press Secretary, thus earning the Daily Show's eternal gratitude. As a bonus, we put Kucinich in Bolton's job as UN ambassador. Chertoff and Brownie each get shot in the face with birdshot on televison by Dick Cheney as a sign of goodwill toward poor people, and Karl Rove gets the bump to official Chief of Staff to satisfy the base. For consistency's sake, Andy Card (current Chief of Staff) gets a Medal of Freedom or some other BS medal like Bush gave Tenet.

If Bush wants to silence his critics, he needs to bring them to the table. Feingold should get appointed to the Supreme Court to replace Stevens, and Bush should take the heat from his base for not completely re-shifting the Court, but not until after the mid-term elections. Cheney should bite the bullet and do regular appearances on the Daily Show from now until the end of the term. If he's not running, he's got nothing to lose. He actually seems to have a decent sense of humor, so it would be a way to improve Republican numbers in the 18-24 demographic that typically leans Dem.

I would also take steps to weaken the Democrats by tapping third party candidates for important posts in the last two years. This takes a chunk out of the progressive wing of the Dems, and will increase the viability of alternative parties overall, but not enough to be an immediate threat to the Republican party, if the Republicans get the trains moving again. I'd start with the Libertarians for certain posts, like perhaps head of Homeland Security. I'd put Greens in charge of environmental policy and possibly HUD.

Then, I’d throw some ideas out there and see what sticks: For instance, we also cut a deal with Mexico to absorb them by 2015 as autonomous state(s) in the Union if the Mexicans vote to join. That way, illegal immigration from Mexico is no longer a problem. To even out the change in the House of Representatives, we admit Puerto Rico and all the US territories, and split Texas into five states. This solves the Social Security crisis and the illegal immigration crisis in one fell swoop. No need to build a stupid wall. We increase the pool of legal workers, and the standard of living evens out across the board, and we’ve got a bunch of consumers eager to catch up with their Northern brothers and sisters. We also buy all of our ports back from China and other countries, and put Mexico in charge of the ports. We offer Canada a chance to join up, and we form a North American Union with the same currency.

In the mean time, we work on getting another statue to keep the booby trap in Iraq at bay. When the Iraqi army went home, we didn’t think about the power vacuum until it was almost too late. We’ve got to get to a point where everyday feels like election days to the Iraqis. Those are the days they seem to feel secure to leave their homes. I honestly don’t know if there’s a faster or better way to do that than we are now, but we should start studying why it seems to work better on election days. Is it that we have more “boots on the ground” on those days? Is it just that men with guns are telling the Iraqis to go dip their fingers in purple ink? Whatever it is, we need to figure it out and replicate the good parts. I think the best way to do that is through honest dialogue, not more bravado. Otherwise, that dangling boulder is going to tip over the precipice and crush us.


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