The Debate of Forking Paths

Last night the Senate debated the Iraq war through the night. What much of the main stream media has neglected to mention is that this long parliamentary night is a result of Republican obstructionism on Congress’ attempt to provide alternatives to our current course in Iraq. While the Congressional Democrats will most likely be unable to overcome the Republican roadblock to Iraq legislation, at least a debate is happening. The Bush Administration’s strangle hold on discussing the Iraq war is finally loosening, and perhaps other voices will filter through the slogans and posturing that have dominated the last several years.

A poster to my last entry articulated the potential problems with American withdrawal from Iraq: civil war, ethnic cleansing, regional instability. While the comment was more nuanced than the Bush Administration’s position and raised some valid concerns with lessening our troop presence in Iraq, it shared a central theme with the Bush Administration’s position: if we live Iraq, chaos will reign, and it will be worse than if we stay. Like any coin, this one should be inspected from two sides: one represents the situation our troops are currently in, the other the plight of the Iraqi people if we leave.

Yesterday’s Washington Post detailed the results of war games put on by the government that looked at the potential results of withdrawal. The conclusions were that the situation would be “ugly” but probably not apocalyptic. The report focused on domestic upheaval and ethnic strife, which would probably fracture the country into three ethnic areas. But, the report did not conclude that Iraq would become a “safe-haven” for al qaeda; nor did it conclude that a withdrawal would lead to chaos or Iranian dominion in the region. These two points are the outcomes most commonly stressed by President Bush when he is warning against withdrawal – and are among the least likely options according to the result of the war games.

On the other side of the coin is our continued involvement. As the right starts to trumpet supposed successes of the surge, Administration officials are starting to leak the possibility of sending more troops. Problematically, we do not have more troops. And any supposed successes of the surge are dubious at best. We are hemorrhaging money in Iraq, and our all-volunteer army is at the breaking point. We have no solution, and very little progress to show. There is the further fact that our troops incite violence in Iraq, and the plight of the Iraqi people right now is not an enviable one.

There are no easy solutions to the Iraqi question. But, our current course strikes me as unsustainable. The debate is not black and white, as the Bush Administration would have it, and there are no easy solutions. But having a real debate about the problems in Iraq is essential to working towards some sort of solution. Hopefully the Senate is starting down a path different than the one we have been on the last four years, for we are now lost.

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