Murtha and His Critics
I'm probably one of only a handful of "dovish" liberals who still thinks, maybe
, that we should stay in Iraq until the country stabilizes or the government kicks us out. Call it weak-kneed moralism—staying might be the only way to prevent a wider civil war that would leave millions dead, and there's a possibility the U.S. can prevent that. But it's not something I'm sure of, and at any rate, indirectly supporting more of this
isn't exactly something to feel good about. That all aside, though, the recent attacks on John Murtha's call for withdrawal from Iraq need something of a response.
Wading through the cesspool here, it looks like the most common right-wing criticism of Murtha involves some variation of, "That coward, we can't leave, leaving would be tantamount to surrender, it would undo all the progress we've made, it would be a victory for Zarqawi, it would make the U.S. weaker, we need to 'finish the job.'" Most of those points might be true—not the "coward" line, which is vile—but they're all sort of irrelevant. James Fallows got at what's actually relevant here:
America's hopes today for an orderly exit from Iraq depend completely on the emergence of a viable Iraqi security force. There is no indication that such a force is about to emerge. As a matter of unavoidable logic, the United States must therefore choose one of two difficult alternatives: It can make the serious changes—including certain commitments to remain in Iraq for many years—that would be necessary to bring an Iraqi army to maturity. Or it can face the stark fact that it has no orderly way out of Iraq, and prepare accordingly.Now Fallows thinks that a "long-term commitment" is, for better or worse, the way forward, but understands that the United States "may not be able to leave honorably." That's the nut of it. Either the U.S. can create a working Iraqi army and stabilize the country or else it can't, and in that case, it's going to have to "retreat" eventually, and Zarqawi or whoever wins. And yes, bad stuff will happen. But there won't be any way to avoid it.
It would be nice if Donald Rumsfeld showed that he cared about training an army, but he seems to be too busy working on a plan to justify the next generation of billion-dollar weaponry instead of worrying about the war he dragged us into. It would be nice if George W. Bush showed that he gave a shit, but he seems too busy boozing up and staggering after Democrats with his fists out. For two years Congress has been snapping its fingers in front of the man's face, trying to get him to wake up and explain his plan to train the Iraqi army, and there's still not enough progress. Understandably, people like John Murtha are throwing their hands up in the air.
Everything else—talk about "surrender" or "retreating" or "Michael Moore" or whether anyone "wants the terrorists to win"—is a red herring. Read Fallows' article. Either a viable Iraqi security force can be trained before the U.S. Army has a "manpower meltdown" or it can't. Murtha, along with many other withdrawal advocates, seems to believe the latter—hence his call to get out and try to pacify Iraq diplomatically, if possible. Not a single person now calling him a "coward" has even tried to address that point.
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