Monday, November 20, 2006

Hanging around Iraq, one more Friedman at a time, until the only solution seems to be attacking Iran?

Employing the unit of time (6 months) he calls a "Friedman" after NY columnist Thomas Friedman, Atrios has a very lucid and concise analysis of what's wrong with liberal Democratic proposals on Iraq like that of Sen. Barack Obama, who is calling for a "gradual and substantial" reduction of U.S. forces starting in 4-6 months.
The thing is that "bring them home now" doesn't really mean now. It doesn't mean that thousands of troops start boarding transport planes for the trip home. It just means that the focus shifts from staying to leaving, and the latter slowly begins to happen. Every time someone punts that action for yet another Friedman, it helps to ensure that the end of the war will always be a Friedman away.
Of course, if we keep piling up Friedman's in Iraq, we'll eventually reach the point where attacking Iran seems to be the only solution for getting out of Iraq. As Seymour Hersh reports in this week's New Yorker:
The Democratic victories this month led to a surge of calls for the Administration to begin direct talks with Iran, in part to get its help in settling the conflict in Iraq. British Prime Minister Tony Blair broke ranks with President Bush after the election and declared that Iran should be offered “a clear strategic choice” that could include a “new partnership” with the West. But many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq. “It’s a classic case of ‘failure forward,’” a Pentagon consultant said. “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.”

The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Condoleezza Rice, who said last month that Iran “does need to understand that it is not going to improve its own situation by stirring instability in Iraq,” and by the President, who said, in August, that “Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold” in Iraq. The government consultant told me, “More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.”

The consultant added that, for some advocates of military action, “the goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb—and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.” (Sadr, who commands a Shiite militia, has religious ties to Iran.)

In the current issue of Foreign Policy, Joshua Muravchik, a prominent neoconservative, argued that the Administration had little choice. “Make no mistake: President Bush will need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities before leaving office,” he wrote. The President would be bitterly criticized for a preĆ«mptive attack on Iran, Muravchik said, and so neoconservatives “need to pave the way intellectually now and be prepared to defend the action when it comes.”
Oh, God -- does it never end? This is exactly the sort of gradual and highly focused buildup to war that the Democrats were never able to stop when it came to Iraq. Hope they're more effective in regard to Iran, but I'm not holding my breath. First they have to stop adding Friedmans.

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