The Open Dimension

Commentary on social issues; politics; religion and spirituality

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Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States

I am a semi-retired psychotherapist/psychiatric social worker and certified hypnotherapist. Originally a practicing attorney, I changed careers during the 1980's. My interests include history, constitutional law, Hindustani classical music, yoga, meditation and spirituality.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama's Iraq Reformulation

Last evening, David Gergen, who certainly knows his way around the White House, was on a CNN panel discussing President Obama’s plan for Iraq. Another panelist, Michael Ware, a veteran reporter who has been in Iraq and covering Iraq for years, was expressing thinly veiled criticisms of Obama’s Iraq policy. The gist of Ware’s comments was basically that Obama’s approach was about as potentially successful as George Bush’s had been and that basically the same-old continues. Gergen was quick to chime in defending Obama, posing the question- I’m paraphrasing slightly-: “What president would want to be the one to exit Iraq and be blamed for the chaos that might ensue?” Yes, and that’s the essence of it all. And that’s why it’s anybody’s guess how long the war in Iraq will actually continue.

The truth of the matter is that, far from being the first steps of a withdrawal, Obama’s plan may be the newest steps of a virtually endless American involvement in war in Iraq. Obama doesn’t want to be the one. Just like Bush didn’t want to be the one. And just like McCain wouldn’t have wanted to be the one. The American presidency has become a kind of fraternity of war maintainers. The methodology of the game is still in the developmental stage. The currently preferred move seems to be to proffer a few feints and change some names. So Obama will re-deploy a few brigades during the next year or so, and then he’ll start calling the remaining troops “residual forces” or “transitional forces” despite the fact that the military personnel involved will be performing essentially the same functions they are performing now- combative or potentially combative duties. And, in 2011, with 50,000 or so troops remaining in Iraq, they will still be an essentially combative force- only with reduced manpower and augmented risk. Other variations to the game will certainly come into being. We’ll just have to just wait and see what creatively inventive forms they will take.

And of course the underlying presumption in Gergen’s comment is not to be denied casually. Iraq has a history of hundreds of years of instability and turmoil. Chaos, including civil war and sectarian genocide, might very well follow an American withdrawal. I suppose U.N. peace-keepers could be sent in to try to quell the violence; but that would be unlikely to work. And the American president, Obama or whoever, would still be blamed. So there we are. That’s why President Obama just can’t take the risk. Who could give him a guarantee that Iraq would not deteriorate into a hopeless mess if he were to withdraw- really withdraw- American troops in a relatively short time-span? Would you want to take such a risk, particularly if you had to face re-election? Would you want to be a political martyr, particularly with such a promising career ahead of you? Do you understand why it’s just better to work with the options the generals present to you and not go out on a limb? Are you realistic enough to accept that this war may just have to go on awhile? And who knows, it may eventually end. Don’t forget your history- even the Hundred Years War ended finally.

It is encouraging to see that liberals and anti-war groups are not becoming overly exercised by all this. After all, we’ve only been in Iraq for six years. There’s no point in becoming depressive and there’s certainly no point in fracturing one’s image by appearing hyper-idealistic and even antiquated. So I am pleased not to be hearing dated laments about lives lost and war-profiteering and all that. And remember that there is no draft in the United States. If the war does continue indefinitely only volunteers will be involved. So relax and don’t lose any sleep. The presidential fraternity isn’t. And President Obama has now allowed us to see the coffins coming back. That’s change we can believe in.