Monday, August 29, 2005

Right Rift

The Moose notes the right's division over Iraq.

Much of the conventional wisdom suggests that the Democrats will be bitterly divided over Iraq. While that may be eventually true, the elephant will likely not be immune from internal differences over war policy. While some on the left are calling for a withdrawal at a date certain, there does not appear to be a rush of Democrats to that position. There is some semblance of a Democratic consensus that it would be disastrous for the U.S. to withdraw prematurely. For instance, on the Sunday gabfests, both Senators Biden and Dorgan seemed to be on the same page opposing the "cut and run" position.

However, it is not even clear that the Bush Administration is united on its war policy. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon often appear at odds with the White House over the drawing down of troops and whether this can even be called a war. Clearly, Rumsfeld has never been enthusiastic about nation-building which apparently led to his disastrous decision to go to war without a sufficient number of troops.

Now, the division between the White House and the Pentagon is even playing out in the editorials of the two flagship conservative publications - the Weekly Standard and the National Review.

The National Review on Iraq,

"...we are already on the downward slope of the curve when it comes to our influence in Iraq, which will diminish naturally with time as Iraqis take more day-to-day control of their own destiny. Indeed, there is no ignoring a natural limit to our commitment. Iraqi tolerance for a foreign occupying army will tend to decrease over time. American public support for the war already sagging will obviously not be inexhaustible. Nor will the strain on the military of a 140,000-strong presence in Iraq, with third tours approaching for some units and army recruiting suffering, be sustainable in perpetuity.

We have given Iraqis a chance at a better future. Eventually, it will be up to them to make of it - their country, their politics, their constitution - what they will."

Now, consider the contrast in the Weekly Standard's editorial,

"... the Financial Times ran a front-page story based on an interview with Major General Douglas Lute, director of operations at U.S. Central Command. Lute, still speaking off of old Rumsfeld talking points, and ignoring what the president had said a week before, said we were seeking to draw down troops over the next year in Iraq. Indeed, he seemed eager to proclaim this--and made the case for withdrawal based on Rumsfeldian dependency theory: "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward."

"This is war-fighting as welfare reform. Is the problem with our allies and potential allies in Iraq really that they are too convinced we're staying? Isn't it more likely that they're now too worried that we're going to leave, creating a dangerous dynamic in which Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds each feel they have to fend for themselves?

And more important, if Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, who cares about dependency theory? Don't we need to defeat Zarqawi? Don't we need to dishearten terrorists in Iraq and around the world who, as the president said, "want us to retreat"? We need to win in Iraq. We're not doing someone else a favor. And in fact, private conversations suggest that the operational U.S. generals in the field (if not the planners at CENTCOM) are confident we can win--if we don't draw down troops too soon, and if we build up Iraqi troops to fight side by side with ours instead of pretending they can immediately replace ours."

So there you have it - the National Review as the voice of the Rumsfeld anti-nation builders; the Weekly Standard as the the alter-ego of the President; and Hagel as the voice of Bush I. To the folks at the Standard, Rumsfeld is General McClellan. The NR types view Rummy as a prudent realist. Which raises an interesting question - where does the Vice President stand as the protege of Rumsfeld and the veteran of Bush I and the loyal #2 to the President?

Unlike the Democratic divisions, the Republican splits will influence the nature of our continued involvement in Iraq. Ironically, we are in this current mess because the Bushies violated the treasured conservative policing theory of "broken windows" developed by James Q. Wilson and put into practice with great result by Rudy Giuliani in the Big Apple. By allowing looting and vandalism at the beginning of the occupation, the chaos and violence grew into what it is today.

Maybe Rudy should replace Rummy...

-- Posted at 8:25 AM | Link to this post | Email this post