Yesterday the Washington Post hosted one of those "pro and con" sets of op-eds. The issue, "ending" the "war" in "Iraq." Sorry about the quotes, but the disagreement about the issue was the issue. Arguing for the "pro" (end the war in Iraq) was Carter administration National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He maintains that a precipitous and irresponsible withdrawal is just what America needs right now. Well, that’s what Max Boot, the con in this scenario, maintains.
And this amounts to a classic waste of time. Boot actually addresses Brzezinski’s claims–or what Boot claims are Brzezinski’s claims–so the Post editors ought to have intervened. Here’s what Zbigniew Brzezinski said:
Terminating U.S. combat operations will take more than a military
decision. It will require arrangements with Iraqi leaders for a
continued, residual U.S. capacity to provide emergency assistance in
the event of an external threat (e.g., from Iran); it will also mean
finding ways to provide continued U.S. support for the Iraqi armed
forces as they cope with the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The decision to militarily disengage will also have to be accompanied
by political and regional initiatives designed to guard against
potential risks. We should fully discuss our decisions with Iraqi
leaders, including those not residing in Baghdad’s Green Zone, and we should hold talks on regional stability with all of Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran.
Take it or leave it. As usual we’re agnostic about that position. We’d like to point out, however, that Brzezinski isn’t advocating "precipitous" withdrawal from Iraq, which, as you can see from the following, Boot thinks he does. Boot writes:
The consequences of withdrawal and defeat in Iraq are likely to be even
more serious, because it is located in a more volatile and
strategically important region.
It warned: "If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly … we judge
that the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] would be unlikely to survive as a
non-sectarian national institution; neighboring countries — invited by
Iraqi factions or unilaterally — might intervene openly in the
conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population
displacement would be probable; AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] would attempt to
use parts of the country — particularly al-Anbar province — to plan
increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and
political disarray in Iraq… could prompt Turkey to launch a military
. . . nothing would be more calculated to aggravate other countries than a precipitous pullout.
An early American departure is the last thing that most Iraqis or their elected representatives want.
An even more important sign of progress is the willingness of hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis to take up arms to fight Sunni and Shiite
terrorists alongside American troops. Imagine their fate if we suddenly
exit. I, for one, hope that we do not betray our allies in Iraq as we
did in Southeast Asia.
So according to Boot, Brzezinski advocates a sudden, early, rapid, precipitous, withdrawal and defeat in Iraq. Of course that’s silly, as Brzezinski didn’t use any of the weaselly temporal qualifiers Boot imputes to him. And so there is a classic straw man. Can’t the editors at the Post point that out?
It really ought to be beneath grown up discourse to engage in this kind of adolescent distortion. There’s more that could be said about Boot’s abysmal piece–such as dubious analogies with Vietnam. Maybe tomorrow.
For today it ought to be said that gainsaying isn’t argument.