Biden Time in Iraq

For Success in Iraq, Change Course

Senator Joseph Biden in today’s Washington Post:

A majority of Sunni Arabs are likely to vote against the constitution, but not the two-thirds needed to defeat it. That will further embitter them.

The consequences for U.S. interests could be devastating. Sectarian violence might escalate into a full-blown civil war, drawing in Syria, Iran and Turkey and turning Iraq into a new Lebanon. Even worse, Iraqi Sunnis could forge stronger alliances with foreign jihadists, turning a swath of Iraq into a pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan for a new generation of terrorists.

Well, I’m not sure what sort of “full-blown civil war” he’s talking about. A lot of people keep going on about a civil war.

Look folks, the civil war is already being fought. What’s going to become more blown? Are neighboring countries going to start supporting insurgents and terrorists in Iraq? Too late. That’s been happening for two years. Unless Syria, Iran, and Turkey send in their armies, the blown-ness of this war isn’t going to change very much. And that simply won’t happen if American troops are in Iraq. Iraq will not be turned into a “pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan”, not as long as a government opposed to such developments has professional forces willing to keep the heat on the terrorists.

Pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan was what it was because the terrorist camps and networks were not only tolerated by the Afghan government (Remember them? The Taliban?), they were blessed by the Afghan government. The government openly supported them. The government was allied with them. They were virtually an official arm of the government. Or was it the other way around?

Anyway, Senator Biden tells us how the minority in Iraq will not buy into the government and will rebel against it. He doesn’t seem to understand that this absolutely precludes anything approaching the situation in pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan. 80% of Iraq is opposed to becoming pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan, and they’ve got the army to back up their opinion. And major help from outside. Afghanistan had none of this. He’s a United States Senator and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. How is it that he cannot understand that?

Of course, I’m not saying that everything is peaches and cream in Iraq, either. I’m worried about the constitutional referendum. But putting it off until December, which is what the Senator recommends, won’t change anything. He says that many Shiitie and Kurds will welcome increased Sunni representation. Sure, Senator. Sure they will. They’ll be very happy to give up some seats to Sunnis.

He’s suggesting that the government of Iraq delay its operations and change its foundations to please the 20% of the country that’s blowing things up. That’s a gross oversimplification, but I think it captures the essence of what we’re talking about here. I’m not saying it isn’t going to happen, but I’m saying it’s a terrible thing and if it does, indeed, happen, we and the Iraqi people will have suffered a massive defeat.

Biden’s final paragraph, with Murdoc’s commentary:

Successfully involving moderate Sunnis,

Elections do that. That’s the point of it all.

sharing the burden with the key international players,

This sort of phrase always seems to mean those “international players” that actively oppose what we’re doing. I fail to see how worrying about that helps anyone.

getting support from the region,

That’s a laugher, Senator. You’re such a kidder. Yep. We’ll just re-write this old constitution a bit so that Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are all on-board with it. We’ll get right on that.

setting concrete goals with timelines

Not really much point arguing once again why troop-withdrawal deadlines are a bad idea, which is what this means.

and insisting on regular accountability from the administration

Ah, that’s the heart of it. Not the situation on the ground. Not the larger strategy. Making the Bush administration “accountable”.

would bring our troops home sooner and safer.

For a minute, I though maybe he forgot that we even had troops in Iraq, with all his talk about Syria and Iran helping the Sunnis wage a civil war and the terrorists turning Iraq into pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan. I’m glad he remembers they’re there.

It’s also the best way to leave Iraq with our most fundamental security interests intact.

And that, folks, summarizes the key strategy for much of the Left: We need to figure out how to retreat without looking too bad.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that perhpas Senator Biden wasn’t referring to troop-withdrawal deadlines (yeah, I know I’m stretching things a bit, here) but maybe instead he meant “concrete goals with timelines” along the lines of, say, “vote on a permanent constitution by the middle of October”, or something.

You know, the sort of “concrete goal with timeline” he’s suggesting we put off until December.

UPDATE 2: Glorfindel of Gondolin:

Regardless of whether Biden’s concrete proposals make sense or not, at least he’s going beyond simple Bush-bashing by offering some substantive alternatives to Bush’s simple-minded “stay the course.”

In my humble opinion, it’s rather important whether proposals make sense or not. Something different just for the sake of being something different isn’t exactly what we’re looking for here. But maybe that’s just me.

I left a comment asking for a link to Biden’s “substantive alternatives”, as all I’ve seen so far is this column. I’m looking forward to reviewing these alternatives.


  1. A majority of Sunni Arabs are likely to…’ ‘The consequences for U.S. interests could be…’ ‘Sectarian violence might…’ ‘Iraqi Sunnis could…’ Is Biden in drag as a delphic oracle? If so he is ‘predicting’ the past. Post facto clairvoyance is the hobby of a political windbag. Sorry Joe. Let me join him: I predict embittered democrats could lose more senate seats in the ’02 midterm elections. I’m such a seer. /sarcasm OT, but fun: replace ‘Sunni Arabs’ with ‘Pelosi Democrats’, and ‘constitution’ with ‘Bush’, and Biden’s ‘full-blown’ fear-mongering could be an Iowahawk satire of his party’s own morass. -Steve

  2. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Bush’s approach adequately protects our national interests. I don’t believe it does (and neither does Chuck Hegel), but that’s not the point I’m making now. Instead, my point is that IF you don’t think the Bush approach works, THEN you ought to suggest an alternative approach instead of just complaining about Bush. Joe Biden has done that. Repeatedly. I wish more Democrats (and Republicans) would do the same. Think of the benefits! If more people started offering alternatives, we might have something better than either the Bush or the Biden approaches to choose from. You have, imo, some very strong arguments against the Biden plan — but don’t confuse a bad plan with the absence of a plan. Steve: I agree with you that the Democratic Party is caught in up in a morass of its own creation. But I wonder if you’d be willing to say the same thing about the Bush administration? As I said in my blog post that Murdoc linked to, Mark Steyn is representative of the dwindling number of people who actually think we’re ‘winning’ in Iraq. Admittedly, I exaggerate: there are more people than just Mark Steyn who think this. But do you dispute that –for whatever reason — most polls are showing that more and more Americans are dissatisfied with Bush’s performance in Iraq, and that this might be due to their belief that the U.S. is not in fact ‘winning?’ It seems like Iraq is a complicated situation with more than just two possible responses. ‘Withdraw’ is not the only alternative to Bush’s ‘stay the course.’

  3. Carey, good points and an evenhanded conclusion. Here’s a citizen’s suggestion: let’s assist our real allies – Poland, the U.K., Australia, Japan, Thailand – to build up their armed forces to levels comparable to ours so that they can relieve our ‘muscle’ in Iraq in a rotational manner. If Americans are souring on the Iraq war, I blame it on the day-in-day-out, concerted campaign conducted by the national and international media – a campagn of factual and contextual ommision, and prolonged editorial attack. The power of the press to direct our national agenda is real, and the NYT, LA Times and WaPo all know it. The problem is the truth becomes secondary to the agenda. Hitler, Stalin and the Baath party all knew the power of propaganda saturation on the public psyche. So did Rwanda’s genocidal radio programmers. And Mao likened the minds of China’s peasants to ‘blank white pages’ onto which he supposed the party’s media could write any message they chose. After reading an anti-Bush Frank Rich editorial, or hearing NPR’s Daniel Schorr drone-on about ‘Bush’s quagmire in Afghanistan,’ one could be forgiven for thinking these American media personalities agree with Mao’s assessment, and apply it to us Americans. For more evidence of media power to mold public discourse, look no further than the meta-story the MSM’s sloppy reporting on Katrina intends to paint. -Steve

  4. I find it telling that so many people seem to care more about whether the average joe (who really has no qualifications to judge such a thing, let alone enough information to be able to make such a judgement) thinks the war is being won, vs. whether or not it actually is. Instead of taking polls about whether people think the war is being won, how about going out there and actually finding out where it is? Journalists – hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink?

  5. RE: ‘Stay the course’… If you’re driving from New York to Los Angeles, and six hours in the kids start asking ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet?’ do you change destinations because St. Louis is a ‘substantive alternative’?