November 02, 2006

De facto campaign promises

Big-D Democrats, take note!

A substantial majority of Americans expect Democrats to reduce or end American military involvement in Iraq if they win control of Congress next Tuesday and say Republicans will maintain or increase troop levels to try to win the war if they hold on to power on Capitol Hill, according to the final New York Times/CBS News poll before the midterm election.

There was a piece in Harper's a few weeks ago outlining a concrete and nuanced plan to end the occupation of Iraq. The core notion was that the money we're pouring into mercenaries armed escorts and cronyism no-bid contracts would be much more efficiently spent rebuilding the Iraqi police force and utility infrastructure. Marshall Plan-esque grants to Iraq over the next year would achieve a lot for less than the occupation is costing us now.

The key assumption here is that much of the momentum driving the country into civil war is over the American military presence, so that, if we withdraw in the right way, much of the conflict will simply evaporate. I don't know enough about the situation in Iraq, but assumption could be a dangerous one -- certainly the ethnic conflict stirred up by the British in Rwanda didn't just evaporate in the decades after decolonialization.

I suspect we really are doing far more harm than good in Iraq, and wasting lots of money and lives in the process. But, as bad as things are now, any plan for withdrawal must look seriously at the possibility that they would only get worse.

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