21 November 2005

Biden on Iraq

Joe Biden is not my favorite senator, Democrat or Republican. He tends to strike me as being a bit too focused on public opinion, and not quite focused enough on his own opinions. Today, however, I think he got it right.

Biden's summary of the dilemma we face in Iraq is on the money: whether or not we like it, we do have vital national interests to protect in Iraq. To quote Biden, "We must ensure Iraq does not become what it wasn’t before the war: a haven for terrorists. And we must do what we can to prevent a full-blown civil war that turns into a regional war."

It is worth pointing out something here that Biden did not emphasize as much as he might have: we are in real danger of losing on both those fronts.

The recent suicide bombings in hotels in Jordan were mastermined by al-Zarqawi in Iraq, and carried out by Iraqis who were dispatched from Iraq to Jordan to carry out the attack. Iraq has in fact become a training ground for terrorists, and Iraq has become an exporter of terrorism.

It was neither before the invasion, administration claims notwithstanding. Saddam was a domestic terrorist of the worst kind, and may have given financial support to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Both of those acts are reprehensible, but neither is an automatic trigger for US intervention. Saddam, bad as he was, was mostly a problem for the Iraqis, not the world as a whole.

The recent discovery of a Shiite-run secret prison in Baghdad, where Sunni prisoners were allegedly tortured, does not bode well for the long-term domestic tranquility of Iraq. This, again, is a situation that did not exist prior to the US invasion.

Biden sums up what this means for the US presence in Iraq nicely: "The hard truth is that our large military presence in Iraq is both necessary… and increasingly counter-productive." He is clearly right on both counts. At the moment, it appears that our troops may well be the only thing that stands in the way of a full-out, three-way civil war. Our troops are also the main barrier (semi-porous though it may be) keeping the terrorists within Iraq from spreading out beyond the borders on a more regular basis.

The situation that has been described looks increasingly similar to a classic no-win scenario - one that is almost entirely of the administration's making.
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