If you took a poll of Democrats, it would be reasonable to assume that, at this junction, most would be inclined to support a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Any hope of a "successful" resolution now seems more wishful thinking than sound logic. With this sentiment in mind, I confess I find it curious that Wesley Clark garners such widespread support and generally gets a free pass for his Iraq position. The Clark approach demonstrates a lack of pragmatism and offers little divergence from the Democratic hawks like Biden and Clinton we so love to vilify.
reveals an approach that parrots the pariah Democrats:
"Public confidence in President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq has sunk to an all time low. An increasing number of Americans of all political persuasions are now calling for expedited withdrawal of US forces. More and more Americans are angry. They are angry about the President's incompetence and his general unwillingness to acknowledge with some humility that he has made some terrible and tragic mistakes regarding the mission in Iraq.
"But America cannot allow itself to be so blinded by anger over this Administration's mishandling of events since the removal of Saddam Hussein from power that we are unable to see the danger of pushing for a premature withdrawal of US forces. Those who would use terror as a tactic in Iraq would be rewarded and emboldened if we pull out prematurely. We can not do that.....
Staying the course is not a strategy, it is just a slogan. What we need to do is change the course and put in place a real strategy that will not only bring us SUCCESS in Iraq, but will restore to the United States of America the moral authority we've lost through our missteps over the past three years."
Withdrawal is equated to rewarding the terrorists, a tired line for justification that we have heard forever. Clark proposes that Iraq is a winnable proposition if we put in place a real strategy. This position denotes a level of stubbornness, a lack of pragmatism and frankly a path for continued occupation with no end in sight.
To be fair, it is important to look at the Clark plan for Iraq and determine if it has any potential for "success". One of the key components of the Clark doctrine is too engage Iraq's neighbors and bring them into the political process. Clark even suggests allowing Iraq's neighbors a say in any future constitution. Given the sectarian nature of Iraq and the fact that all of Iraq's neighbors have a vested interest in certain elements, this proposition seems like a non-starter. Could any of Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia be seen as an honest broker who would support any entity beyond its narrow interests. The Kurds would shun any Turkish involvement, the Sunni would be suspicious of Iran and so too the Shia with Syria. Engaging the neighborhood would only exasperate ethnic tensions and have a probable conclusion of partition or civil war. I don't see how this proposal is reasonable or realistic.
Everyone knows the border situation in Iraq is porous and this has proven a huge problem for the military. Clark suggests we dedicate more forces for border security and advocates using "technology" to seal the borders. We have our own border with Mexico as an example of how unrealistic the idea of a sealed border, despite technology and manpower. Enacting this measure means more troops and the prospect of little effect.
Clark proposes that we turn over "peacekeeping" responsibilities to Iraqi forces, with American troops acting as support that will be "gradually" phased out. Even the Pentagon admits that Iraqis are in no position to conduct operations effectively. Couple this fact with recent admissions of the sectarian infighting within most Iraqi forces and this proposal strikes me as wishful thinking akin to this administration's "hopes". This rhetoric doesn't match the reality on the ground- by all indications it will be a long time before Iraqis are ready to act effectively.
One of the more bizarre proposals by Clark is his support for "a legal mandate from the government" to legitimize American military and civilian assistance. The only caveat that keeps most Iraqis from outright rebellion against American forces is the notion that our occupation is temporary. Any measure that institutionalizes American presence will only serve to fuel insurgent claims that America seeks a permanent involvement in Iraq's affairs.
Clark also proposes internationalizing the effort in Iraq to counter the appearance of a unilateral occupation. Clark says we need to seek help from Canada, France and Germany in terms of training. What positive signals have we seen that suggest any of these nations have any stomach for entangling themselves in this mess- I would argue the opposite. Even the United Nations is uncharacteristically timid about involvement in Iraq. It is painfully obvious that the prevailing sentiment amongst the world community is that this is our mess and they want no part.
The main problem I have with Clark's approach is that it has shown no evolution over time. Clark has been making the same comments since the primaries, while the reality on the ground has continued to change. This lack of pragmatism, and a hint of egoism that makes Clark think he can fix it, is very disappointing. Clark has allowed for eventual withdrawal in his latest proposals, but this statement is more afterthought, with the crux of his energy spent on "winning strategies". We have clearly passed the stage where victory is a realistic option. I would add, we have reached a stage where leaders who cling to old visions do not deserve our blind support.
I am sure many of the Clark supporters would disagree with me here, but I think I accurately represent the Clark position. How do supporters reconcile their own personal opinion of the situation in Iraq with what Clark proposes? Clark sounds similar to the "liberal hawks' discussed in this article who are generally treated with vitrol and disdain. At this point, I would argue any politican who is not advocating withdrawal and in turn denying the stark reality is not worthy of our support. The stakes are too high to allow for an open ended engagement that is based on faulty premise.