Saturday, September 02, 2006

We all have choices

Simple choices such as eating healthy or splurging on the triple dip cone, and tough choices like working for less money at a job closer to your kids' school so that you can spend more time with them. Some of them don't have a "right" answer, just a lesser of evils.

The political season is upon us. In fact, my absentee ballot for the Washington primary is sitting here patiently awaiting my selections. In some states, the races to be decided this year will help determine the balance of power in Congress. So when this article from the Weekly Standard arrived in my email, I was in a good frame of mind to digest it.

Will We Choose to Win in Iraq?
The war is frustrating. That doesn't mean we ought to get out.
by William J. Stuntz

Thirty-eight years ago, American politics was rocked by another politically controversial war. Then, as now, liberal Democrats competed for the allegiance of an increasingly powerful antiwar left. Then, as now, that constituency flexed its muscles in a key Democratic primary that seemed to turn American politics upside down: In March 1968, Eugene McCarthy almost defeated President Lyndon Johnson in New Hampshire; earlier this month, Ned Lamont triumphed over Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut.

And there may be one more parallel. According to Michael Barone, the gold standard in political commentary, many of the voters who pulled the lever for McCarthy were dissatisfied with Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam war not because they believed the war was wrong or wasteful, but because they believed America was losing it. As Barone puts it in Our Country, voters dissatisfied with Vietnam wanted to "win or get out."

I would like to see us win, so that we can get out. Are we doing all we can to achieve that goal?
There is one more possible reason to head for the exits in Iraq: Victory is either impossible or (what amounts to the same thing) prohibitively expensive. And there is a sure-fire test of whether or not victory truly is impossible: See whether a rising number of American soldiers in a given city or neighborhood tends to produce more violence or less. If the answer is more, then it is pointless to send more soldiers; the ones who are already there are doing net harm. But that is not what the evidence shows.

Recently, as part of the Army's effort to reduce the killing in Baghdad, soldiers were pulled out of Mosul--and violence in Mosul escalated. Iraq the Model, a blogger who knows far more about conditions in Baghdad than most Western reporters, fears not that American soldiers will cause more killing, but that we have too few soldiers on the ground to pacify territory and then hold it.

I encourage you to go read the complete article. One section in particular caught my eye. It's not a new sentiment, but useful to remember as we head into our election season for this year...

Our side in Iraq holds elections. The other side kills people who stand in line to vote. America's military is fighting not to protect one set of thugs from another, but to allow a democratically elected government to establish itself in a society a majority of whose members want it to do so. It's hard to imagine a more morally worthy goal. And that would be true even if our enemies were not uncommonly murderous--which they plainly are. Rarely has a militarily powerful state fought for nobler ends.

Go read the whole thing, and let me know what you think. How much does the war in Iraq (and don't forget Afghanistan) and the tension with Iran and Korea affect your thoughts on voting this year?