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November 25, 2005 [LINK]

"Cutting and running"

Is Rep. Murtha right or wrong to urge an immediate withdrawal from Iraq? There is a debate over this hot topic under a commentary written by retired General William Odom at (link sent to me by an anonymous benefactor) He concludes:

The wisest course for journalists might be to begin sustained investigations of why leading Democrats have failed so miserably to challenge the US occupation of Iraq. The first step, of course, is to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the US interest and has not become so. It is such an obvious case to make that I find it difficult to believe many pundits and political leaders have not already made it repeatedly.

Expressing views on complex issues in such terms of absolute certainty is not convincing to me. General Odom is an international affairs realist, meaning that he downplays values and emphasizes balance of power above all else. During the Cold War, he argued that the United States had no choice but to support authoritarian dictators (such as Chile's Pinochet) as preferable to allowing Soviet clients to gain more power in the Third World. I consider myself a "normative realist" in the tradition of Hans Morgenthau, allowing for some consideration of values and ethics. I noticed that one of the commenters on that page is Michael Schrage, whose Washington Post op-ed piece in 2003 I praised (see May 19, 2003 blog post), and who was nice enough to contact me about it. For the record, I am not so fervently "gung-ho" that I regard the Iraq war as a "do-or-die" mission. It is clearly in our national interest that pluralistic, non-despotic regimes take root in that part of the world, and while that outcome could not have come about without the U.S.-led effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power, it may be the case that our continued presence there could prove to be counter-productive. I strongly hope that is not the case, but I don't think winning the war is worth tearing apart our nation. War opponents need to understand that their own words and actions can have a self-fulfilling effect. Of course, the less sincere ones among them certainly do realize that...

Iraq syndrome: Neo-isolationism?

Meanwhile, Daniel Drezner explores the possibility that the Iraq war may spawn a renewal of the age-old tradition in American politics to just tell the rest of the world to go to hell. He also ponders the difference in attitudes between civilian and military Americans, wondering which of those social groups is more delusional. Very interesting...

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 25 Nov 2005, 3: 42 PM

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