Wednesday, December 06, 2006

TNR review: the continuation

Richard Clarke and David Rieff bother have article in this issue that call for withdrawal. Here’s Clarke:
We can pursue our core interests in Iraq--ensuring that the country does not become a terrorist base and that it does not destabilize the rest of the region--without a large occupying force. To do this, we should announce our intention to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq beginning in December and concluding with the withdrawal of all major ground combat units within 18 months; declare that the United States seeks no permanent military bases in Iraq; gain permission from Kuwait to station additional combat units there to create an "over the horizon" capability to deal with terrorists in Iraq; accelerate the training and equipping of the Iraqi army with embedded Special Forces; work with our regional allies to create an enhanced covert action capacity to combat Iraq-based terrorism; speed up U.S. reconstruction efforts; and convene a regional process to guarantee the stability of Iraq, inviting Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf countries to join.
It’s telling that they had to hire an outsider to pen this reasonable piece. Though it’s not an opinion often expressed in TNR supporting troop withdrawals doesn’t mean supporting isolation.
This “support the war or support pulling out in half and hour” paradigm seems to be so strong at TNR that when David Rieff - a regular contributor – penned his piece he couldn’t help but fulfill some of the worst instincts of the anti-war forces:
At the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968, while his policemen were beating up the demonstrators along the Loop and in Lincoln Park, Mayor Richard Daley apparently told Lyndon Johnson that it was time to pull the troops out of Vietnam, once and for all. "How am I to do this?" Johnson asked pleadingly. To which Daley is said to have replied: "You put the fucking troops on the fucking planes and you get them out of there!"

Apart from protecting the Kurds, whose possible acquisition of statehood may be the only good news of this whole dreadful adventure--America's Sicilian Expedition, I fear--there is no longer anything we can do. And the Kurds can probably look after themselves anyway. It is time to put the fucking troops on the fucking planes. Now! Before any more of our children die for their country's hubris.
Now it could be that Rieff is just being hyperbolic here. He could just mean “get them out quickly in the safest way possible”. As far as I know doing that would take somewhere around a year to – as Clarke said – 18 months. Still I can’t help but take him seriously when he makes the unserious suggestion of just putting the soldiers onto planes as fast a possible. Not only would this be logistically difficult for our troops but it wouldn't give Iraqis any chance to prepare for the sea change it would bring. It seems that TNR offers an equal opportunity to read both unserious pro-war arguments and unserious anti-war ones.

Tom’s rating: 10/10 and 6/10

Probability of being instituted: 5/10 and 5/10

Pony plan rating: N/A and N/A

Update: Spencer Ackerman, formerly of TNR explains that being for withdrawal is not good for your career at TNR.
How many times, guys? How many times did you intimate to me that I was in league with the terrorists when I told you to get out of Iraq? Hey, Leon, do you remember the editorial meeting after the Blackwater lynching in late March 2004? That was the first time I said I thought the war was unwinnable, and that was the first time you told me ("joking," of course) that I was fired. Yeah, it was funny the first time, I guess, but after the next hundred, the joke gets kind of old.
Spencer Ackerman was a writer at TNR whom the editors once thought so well-versed in Iraq that they let him write a blog dedicated to it.

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