Dissent & Wartime Posturing

Last night, one of the right’s more salient (and persistent) critiques of Obama’s foreign policy died a quiet death, as Facebook blogger Sarah Palin led the way to cheer Iraq’s newfound stability as proof that the Bush-era surge, contrary to candidate Obama’s expectations, did its job.

Here, she (and the right) actually have us. Bush’s “surge” appears to have worked, and for this, we should be very happy. Of course the “surge” came years late, and proves rather than refutes the charge that the previous administration mishandled the war from the date of the invasion to the date of the surge. Nonetheless, credit where it’s due.

Missing from almost all press coverage of Obama’s speech, though, and conspicuous by its absence from the right-wing talking points du jour, is the point that Obama’s timetable for the scaled withdrawal of forces represents a huge promise kept, and an inseparable part of this new success story.  We come to the end of the “combat mission” with more boots on the ground at home than ever contemplated by the Republican alternative plan. This success validates the notion that Democrats can manage wars, and that timely withdrawal isn’t cowardly. It also speaks to a larger point about the rhetoric we indulge when we fight foreign foes.

Republican critiques of the “timetable” linked back to the larger trope that any showing of weakness — whether through the open discussion of withdrawal, or the presentation of anything less than a unified front (“support the President, or the terrorists win”) — translates to treason, by “giving aid and comfort to the enemy,” and inspiring them with the notion that America is beatable yet, because the people’s resolve can yet be shaken. One hopes, in light of this victory, that we can finally do away with the foolish notion that dissent, and cogent military planning, are unpatriotic.

I’m not optimistic.



  1. The issue has always been an artificial end-date rather than a draw-down based on military recommendations. The Right doesn’t want troops pulled based on date established by the Obama Campaign in 2008.

    What happened today was a re-branding. Literally. A BBC reporter said this morning that you can find Operation New Dawn coffee mugs in the Green Zone right now. Troops have been leaving for months and nothing really changed today from a week ago. Troops will continue to leave but we’ll also probably miss our final exit deadline.

    1. Yes, we will, but at least we won’t be pulling people off roof tops or pushing heicopters into the sea so others can land and off-load evacuees.

      1. Will we? We don’t have any certainty that there won’t be an outbreak of hostilities between the factions.

        1. As opposed to all the hostilities that have already broken out between the factions? Oh wait, I forgot – there’s no Civil War in Iraq because Donald Rumsfeld said so.

          1. Don’t you think an Iraq devoid of international peacekeppers is a bit more unstable than with them?

            1. I think an Iraq with a true international force would be very stable – but we’ve never had that. We’ve had a U.S. force with international tokens – nearly all of whom already abandoned the folly. And considering that Iraq as we know it now is a European construct, not a historically based country, Iraq’s instability was inevitable.

              1. Right, but that still makes my point that things could devolve very quickly and we’ll be blamed.

  2. carlsonjok · ·

    The surge was only successful for sufficiently defined values of success. It was intended to quell the sectarian violence long enough to allow a process of political rapprochement to take hold. Politically, Iraq is still a basketcase. Whether the (relative) lack of violence in the short term is indicative of anything greater remains to be seen.

    The Sunnis and Shias may yet have their civil war.

  3. Whatever happened to wars where you could just send a Sherman or Patton in to torch everything and kill everybody? Those were good wars, what with their clearly defined and obtainable objectives and all.

    1. You have to have Nation-States with standing Armies for those sort of wars.

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