Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mister Disingenuous

Richard Holbrooke writes in an open letter to the President:
Broadly speaking, you have three choices: "Stay the course," escalate or start to disengage from Iraq while pressing hard for a political settlement. I will argue for the third course, not because it is perfect but because it is the least bad option.
Does anybody think this is honest, disinterested advice? "Stay the course," to Democrats and the media, means stubbornly clinging to tactics that aren't working and hunkering down and taking casualties while Iraq devolves into civil war. I don't know that Iraq is headed for civil war, but neither does Mr. Holbrooke. The sectarian violence is disturbing, but a certain amount of payback is bound to take place when people who have been denied their rights for as long as the Shiites in Iraq have been. I think that Muqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous guy and is working with Iran's revolution, but if the Shiites wanted an Iran-style revolution with Mullahs running things, they could have had it by now. Are they willing to fight for their religion? I think so. Do they want to oppress Sunnis and deny them the right to worship as they wish? I doubt it.

The goal is to give the Iraqis themselves time to work out their own system. I think the Shiites have desires in line with what we would like to see, but they will strengthen ties with Iran. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, since Sistani is an Iranian and has a lot of influence there, while the support for the Khomeini revolution conflicts with traditional Shia beliefs about the role of clergy in government. Things are still fluid, in other words, and the people who argue that we should continue to talk to Kim Jong Il aren't willing to give Iraqis any more time to talk.

We should engage Kim, but disengage from Maliki. Whatever Bush does, he'll be wrong and the Democrats will reverse themselve or crow "Victory!" as if Bush was taking their advice rather than that of the generals on the scene.

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