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The 2003 invasion of Iraq shows why we can’t trust right-wing pundits and establishment government figures to make good policy. Liberals must lead on this issue. But what is the best policy for the U.S. in Iraq given the very real threat emerging from a radical and potentially powerful new state made from pieces of Iraq and Syria?

Liberals have distinctly different values from conservatives. The great failure of our past policy in Iraq comes from both flaws in conservative values and deficiencies turning their values into policy. It also comes from filtering out all liberal values from the equation.

What I want to see in the media are experts on Iraq who were not proponents of the 2003 invasion. What I want are people carrying a strong policy response based on liberal values. Those people need to address our concerns:


  1. We care about humans and want to see an end to the violence.
  2. We believe in secular society, not sectarian society.
  3. We care about the economy and the environment, and we look at that from both a global and a local perspective.

The most immediate need, then, is to provide humanitarian assistance, while looking for a way to stop the fighting, and then develop a new peace structure. Whether that is one, two or three Iraqs has to come out of the needs of the people in that region.

We should be very restrained about putting in troops, even “advisors”. What do our advisors know that the Iraqis don’t?

We need to respond quickly to the humanitarian crisis, but take our time and develop policy for the military and political one.

We hear that ISIS is radical, “too radical for al Qaeda”. This is intended to scare us into action. But the truth is that any government that eventually governs western Iraq is going to be far more moderate than ISIS. There’s only one resource to fund that region, and it’s oil. Whoever controls it will be relatively moderate—if they want to sell that oil anywhere else in the world.

What policy do you want to see the U.S. pursue? What needs to replace the crazy right-wing policy that got us mired in Iraq for ten years and resulted in this mess? Meet me on the other side of the fold.

Here are my questions, and I invite your comments below.

I put forward some key liberal values above. Did I miss anything? Do you disagree with any of them? Should any of them be revised?

Conservatives seemed to act on certain principles in pursuing the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Those include:

  • All your resources belong us. We have a good excuse so we’re going to grab all your oil.
  • Spending money on the military increases U.S. security, and using the military increases U.S. dominance in the world, which makes us feel more secure.
  • Americans have the right form of government (let’s call it democracy), and we perceive Iraq to be just a dictatorship, so we should change your form of government, Iraq.
  • No one gets the better of the U.S., so if we’re attacked we’ll strike back to make the point we won’t tolerate anyone attacking us.

We could sum up these “values” as “American exceptionalism”. That is, we’re better than anyone else and it’s our right and obligation to force everyone else to go along.

I think American exceptionalism has a place. The U.S. is exceptional. We have exceptional ideals. The way to be exceptional Americans is to live up to those ideals. But using it as a basis for waging war and abusing non-Americans is the exact opposite of living up to those ideals.

Given our values, what should we do in Iraq? I put forward some elements of policy above. Those include:

  • Provide humanitarian assistance.
  • Stop the fighting.
  • Develop a new peace structure.

I’ve heard a lot about the fighting and the politics, but I don’t think I’ve seen a single story about Doctors Without Borders or any other humanitarian effort. What’s going on with that? That should be our main focus at this point.

What’s the mechanism for getting a cease fire? Or, is that off the table because the al-Maliki government is launching a military attack to regain western Iraq? We should try to prevent that. We may have enabled a civil war when we invaded, but that doesn’t mean we should stand by while it plays out. Bad as it might be to have ISIS take over a big portion of Iraq, a military response from the Iraqi government is not going to solve the problem. In the “best case” they would kick ISIS out of the region and restore their control. But then what? The people there will have all the same gripes plus the additional one they’ve been overrun twice by armies. It’s one thing to conquer territory; it’s another to control it.

But I suspect this isn’t going to play out that way. What’s the incentive for Nouri al-Maliki to let an armed rebellion strip off some of the most valuable areas of the country? We probably don’t have a say in this, and in the long run we may be better off to stay out until it’s much more settled.

Nevertheless, if the people in an area want independence we need to support a peaceful way to make that happen. What’s going on diplomatically that would allow people in western Iraq to get their civil and humanitarian rights met? There will come a time when that will come to the forefront, and we should be on board from the very beginning.

In the long term, the best policy for this area is actually a domestic policy: Strong support of renewable energy. Every time we move our energy use from fossil to renewable sources we reduce the power of those in the Middle East who depend on oil as the source of that power. The neo-cons have dragged us into fight after fight and war after war overseas in what (stripped of all the high-minded rhetoric and scare tactics) comes down to securing oil supplies. Get rid of the need. It’s better for the environment and better for the economy. This crisis should remind us how vital it is to convert now.

There’s a great temptation given our recent experience to do nothing. That can translate into a policy on the left to say, “Don’t do anything. Just let it all play out.” That would be a bad idea, because the neo-cons are ever ready to jump into any silence and use any crisis to their advantage. We can’t afford that vacuum. We need to have a strong policy response, but one consistent with our values.

That’s what I want to see in the media.

Poll

Our goal now for Iraq should be:

52%9 votes
11%2 votes
0%0 votes
11%2 votes
5%1 votes
17%3 votes

| 17 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis
  •  I hope that Persia exerts a stabilising force. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    This is a conflict that predates Columbus.

  •  Other, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dansmith17, Liberal Thinking

    First a quibble, America is not exceptional, nor are it's "Values",.... America just was in the right place at the right time to take over from Britain. Those so called "values" have never been expressed a Government policy, and you can find those self same values held world wide, by many people.

        Do nothing and let the situation take its course.
    Given the realities of US Aid and Politics, probably the best course for Iraq, but breaks the Potterybarn rule, so, ain't gonna happen,
        Stabilize the situation, protect lives, and help Iraq regain peace.
    Not a lot the US can do or is willing to do that would be productive. It's up to the Iraqi's to stabilize the situation and make peace. The US could write checks to help refugees but the US is a miser when it comes to non-military aid.
    Help the Iraqi government regain the lost provinces and then accommodate Sunni interests by restructuring the government.
    The only support the US will offer Iraq is no US Casualty air support, and while carefully co-or donated, may minimize civillian deaths, that will bring no goodwill from the Iraqi's,

    And as for restructuring the Iraqi Government, the basic problem is the way and why it was built by the US in the first place. Getting democracy advise from the US is like getting sex tips from a virgin, stock tips from Bernie Madoff, banking tips from Goldman Sachs, household budget tips from McDonald's, well, you get the point,

    Use our military and intelligence services to destroy terrorist elements in the uprising.
    Could be done, would help, many of the names and faces are known through the US training and arms program in Jordan, some of the US's SF's could probably pick the guys they trained out of a line up. Some of the others trained in Turkey, could probably be identified, Either through the intel the US probably gathered on them, seeing as they were training so close to Incirlik, or by pressuring the Turks for the guesthouse lists and files.

    But won't happen.

        Go back in militarily and get it right this time.
    Won't happen, there is no support for boots on the ground and there is no way the US can "fix" Iraq. The US can't even fix itself, or a bridge for that matter.
    Other
    Write some big assed checks. The US looted the Iraqi Government Treasury and Sovereign Wealth Funds and spent it on bribes and unicorns, so writing checks for that amount, plus 8% interest for the Iraqi's to spend on their society and economy would help, like a Marshall Plan rather than the Bremer Plan.

    STFU on Iraq, Iran and Syria, unless you have helpful things to say, would help.

    Stop funding terrorists, stop being Saudi Arabia and Israel's little biache in the Region and shut down their terrorism and interference with sanctions and censure.

    Do some trade deals and aid deals in the region that don't involve Military Hardwear and stop selling them weapons. there are already more than enough there.

    But of course, that ain't gonna happen either.

  •  The Diary is fatally flawed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, ChadmanFL

    First point:

    Iraq troubles began well before Dimbo(with Democrat backing) invaded in 2003. it is impossible to arrive at a solution without taking an overall view of the situation.

    Shall we return to Clinton's policy of starving Iraq? Bombing at will? How did that work out?

    Shall we return to Bush 1 policy of pulling out just before the orgasmic experience of another regime change/murder of a sovereign ruler(that we helped bring to power initially)?

    Shall we structure a policy for Iraq without consideration of current WOT policy bandied about by the current Bomber in Chief?

    Truly Obama is playing whack-a-mole. he is creating terrorists(aka freedom fighters in their native lands) faster that any of his predecessors.

    http://www.theguardian.com/...

    Using drones and other WOT methods has completely trashed/destabilized Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan….

    http://www.theguardian.com/...

    The only solution is to get out of the ME. They will still be selling their oil and hiring US companies to drill for it. They need the revenue.

    Perhaps in a 100 years they will forget and forgive for what we have done to them…if we don't ignite WW3 before then.

    •  In A Century In Won't Matter (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking, gzodik, ChadmanFL

      In a century, once the oil has run out, little that happens in the region will matter.  There likely won't be many people either, because without the oil there's insufficient wealth to feed or water very many people.  Especially with the climate change effects likely to impact this region.  

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 03:49:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm Not Sure I See the Flaw (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gzodik, Garrett

      Primarily, I asked your opinion. I got it. What's flawed about that?

      •  Flawed in your basic assumption about the history (0+ / 0-)

        of our current fiasco in Iraq.

        Neither party has shown a willingness in my entire life to actually seek peace rather than start as many wars as possible.

        Athletes know this. They are usually not going to pick one play at the end of a game and state that it "cost" them the game. They know that any of a hundred plays during the game can be picked apart and blamed as "the play".

        We have 2 teams hell bent on serving wall st. and the MIC.

        Until we have an actual anti war/anti wall st. party, nothing will change.

        The 2003 invasion of Iraq shows why we can’t trust right-wing pundits and establishment government figures to make good policy.
        I could just as easily state:
        Clinton starving Iraqis for 8 years caused such an anti-Americansentiment to build up in iraq that Bush's "they will welcome us with open arms" statement was domed to fail.
        The reality is that BOTH parties are the war party. Everything else is nitpicking.
        •  The History Is Correct (0+ / 0-)

          And I'm not talking about parties. Bill Clinton is not a liberal, as far as I'm concerned.

          But beyond that, what would you have us do now? Nothing?

          My point is that if liberals don't take a strong position on this the neo-cons will fill in with their own suggestions. That tends to push us back into military involvement. Is that what you want?

          •  No (0+ / 0-)

            I want us to get out of the ME.

            The US position has been one of war/destabilization. Saddam is a classic example. We helped him come to power then destroyed him. We detest an ruler anywhere that does not kiss our ass.

            The big lie is that we want democracy in other countries. What we want is subservience to Wall St. of total chaos.

            Liberals(?)

            just look around on dkos and you'll see more "liberals" calling for intervention that those opposed. Because a Democrat is in the WH?

            Look at what we did to Libya!

            •  Yes, No (0+ / 0-)

              First of all, this isn't at odds with what I said was the history. The U.S. position has been one of war and destabilization. We say we want democracy in these countries, but our actions speak otherwise. So, I just agree with all that, and I don't see how this makes the diary flawed or my assumptions about history wrong.

              Second, if you look at the poll results over half of the people responding want us to do nothing. I don't think more liberals are calling for intervention than other policy.

              So, I don't think you're really against what I said.

              Also, I'd like to see us out of the Middle East, too. The way to do that is to make oil a non-issue. This is why promoting renewables is good public policy, regardless of whether they are "cost-effective". (Which they are, if you count all the real costs.)

    •  Wrong on so many levels (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Liberal Thinking

      Pakistan and Libya are actually in better shape today; the brutal dictators are gone. Pakistan actually had a peaceful democratic transition of power a year ago.

      Somalia was a disaster back when Barack Obama was a student at Harvard Law School.

      And drone attacks kill a lot fewer civilians than invasions.

  •  Just What Are America's Interests (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gzodik, ChadmanFL, Liberal Thinking

    Just what outcome should America be interested in achieving in the area?  I refer to the ostensibly stated reasons and not the covert reasons some sectors of American polity might hold.  Until we can reach a clear understanding on those, trying to develop action policy is like pouring water onto sand and not expecting it to drain away before you can drink from the puddle.

    Incidentally, blaming America for the problems with global energy issues on this one inherently accepts - nay, demands - America play the global hegemon.  America doesn't need the energy resources from the Middle East.  Europe and Africa and south and east Asia do.  We exert our influence in the region so those areas can move forward economically and politically without resorting exclusively to war to settle differences, which is what would happen if we weren't involved.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 03:58:49 PM PDT

    •  That's for Us, Too (0+ / 0-)

      While that oil might go to south and east Asia, what happens to it then is that it is often turned into products for us. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year in various goods come from China and other countries in that region.

      Ultimately, we're using that oil for our economy.

      And, oil is a global commodity. Cutting its use in the U.S. by adding more renewable energy cuts its use globally.

      So, I agree with you we should be clear on the results we want. I want to see an end to the violence there. But while we are continuing subsidies to the oil industry, we are really investing in the continuation of wars over oil.

      I think the current "civil war" in Iraq qualifies, even with all the religious overtones.

      •  Nothing Quite Like a Fungible Commodity (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Liberal Thinking

        I agree that contest over energy sources drives the conflict in the region and has done so for the past century.  Even Britain and France fell out over how to divide the Ottoman vilayets which became the basis of Syria and Iraq once the British petroleum geologists determined that the regions up through Mosul likely contained the black stuff.  Originally, France was supposed to receive that territory under Sykes-Picot but got strong-armed out by Britain.

        Since energy is a global issue, any solution to the question of resources coming out of the region needs to be resolved by a global agreement and preferably not one operating on some bourse somewhere.  If ever a major summit might be recommended to try to minimize the violence in the area, now is probably the time.  If Syria and Iraq begin to unravel big time, the bordering states will come under increasing pressure and that means none of the petroleum resources will be secure.  Everybody will try to protect them at the beginning, but by the end the antagonists will be destroying them wholesale to deny their use and revenue to whatever side opposes them.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 08:24:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I've listened to President Obama, and he seems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking

    to have an understanding of the limits of US ability to affect events in Iraq.
       I'm inclined to leave the analysis up to the President this time. If he thinks air strikes will help slow ISIS, I'm not inclined to question his judgment. But I don't think that they'll be necessary. Iran and Iraqi's Shia government seem to have already halted the ISIS advance.

    •  I'm Not Ceding Him That Right (0+ / 0-)

      My worry is that if liberals don't step up the only message out there will still be the neo-con message that Obama isn't doing enough militarily and that we have to send in the Marines.

      So, I am not inclined to leave it up to the President to make all these decisions on his own.

      I'm not personally an expert on Iraq and Syria, but I think we can find liberal experts on that region. Those people should be out in the media presenting our values and our policies to the public. Politicians respond to what their constituents think, but what the citizens think reflects the public discourse. We have to be a factor in that discussion.

  •  I disagree profoundly with this statement (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking
    any government that eventually governs western Iraq is going to be far more moderate than ISIS
    The past century has been full of tyrannical regimes forcing themselves on an unwilling populace in the name of extremist ideologies. We overlook this lesson from history at our peril.
    •  I Would Agree To Disagree (0+ / 0-)

      The factor I think matters here is that the territory ISIS has taken, at least so far, is landlocked. In order for them to get their oil to market it has to be shipped through--where? Iraq? Israel? Turkey? Saudi Arabia?

      I just think that in the end they will not be able to use that oil unless they get cooperation from others, and that will force them to moderate somewhat. I'm not expecting a Jeffersonian utopia, obviously, just a little something less than the terrorist regime we've seen portrayed in the media.

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