Monday, August 06, 2007

Reconsidering the war

How true is it that the "pro-war left" was always a small battallion, which has been losing troops over time? (See Johann Hari quoted in Oliver Kamm's post , previously discussed here.) Well, there was Norman Geras, who moved to a position of neutrality, and Greg Djerejian of the fairly influential blog the Belgravia Dispatch, who has taken the position that 200,000 or 400,000 troops are needed in Iraq, so what's the point of 30,000.

Then there's Michael Ignatieff. His recent essay in The New York Times magazine is entitled 'Getting Iraq Wrong' and he starts off, "The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq...", but, if you read on, his views are a little more nuanced:
The decision facing the United States over Iraq is paradigmatic of political judgment at its most difficult. Staying and leaving each have huge costs. One thing is clear: The costs of staying will be borne by Americans, while the cost of leaving will be mostly borne by Iraqis.
If we now have (finally) a proper counterinsurgency campaign under General Petraeus, it will take at least 18 months to make a significant difference, or to reach a point where properly equipped and trained Iraqi forces are strong enough to allow US troop numbers to be reduced. Let us assume that George Bush will continue to back the counterinsurgency strategy until he leaves office in January 2009. The Democrat controlled congress will no doubt continue to try to force it to be abandoned.

What will happen after that? John McCain's position is well known (see here). Mitt Romney has also said, "I do support the surge." Of course, this comes with the usual right-wing baggage - tax-cuts for the rich and so on ( C-span / BBC Parliament, 29 Jul). There is a third axis: Romney's credibility as a Republican candidate suffers because he is a Mormon; Rudi Giuliani is seen as too "liberal" in his lifestyle (he's been divorced) and in some of his former positions (pro-gay rights).
 
All the same, I believe it would be difficult to vote for the Democrats in good conscience.

Last October, I did not think the foreign policy positions of McCain and Hillary Clinton were too different, both having responsible positions on Iraq. Even in January this year, her statements were still just about reasonable (*).  But then she said, "If we do not in Congress end this war by January 2009, then I will." (Financial Times, 3 Feb) These changes are summed up in another NYT article from this weekend: "Slowly, Clinton Shifts on War, Quieting Foes". 

* 'After Iraq Trip, Clinton Proposes War Limits', NYT, 18 Jan 2007 - Hillary Clinton visited Iraq in the company of Senator Evan Bayh and Representative John M. McHugh;  C-Span, via BBC Parliament, 21 Jan.

Update (8 Aug): More comments on Ignatieff at dstpfw. It is also worth reading David Aaronovitch's article in The Times / his blog, from 17 July, where referring to the 8 July editorial in The New York Times entitled 'The Road Home', he says:
Of course a lot of what was written in the editorial was true. I reemphasise the simple point that had I known that 100,000 Iraqis would die after the removal of Saddam Hussein, then I would have argued against military action. But this is a strange moment to abandon Iraq.
...

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