Morning Bell: A Debate Conservatives Can’t Wait To Have

Conn Carroll /

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), (of ‘General Betray Us’ fame), the Center for American Progress, and other anti-war activists are mounting a new campaign to shift public opinion on Iraq by blaming it for the United States recent economic slowdown. As conservatives showed by forcing a debate in the Senate yesterday, this is a debate they think they can win. And a close read of a Washington Post op-ed by members of the anti-war coalition demonstrates how unconvincing the case for rapid troop withdrawal really is.

John Podesta, Ray Takeyh, and Lawrence Korb write:

the surge has failed in its stated purpose: providing the Iraqi government with the breathing space to pass the 18 legislative benchmarks the Bush administration called vital to political reconciliation. To date it has passed only four.

Notice the politically convenient and highly legalistic shift here. No one expected the Iraqi government to meet all 18 benchmarks since the surge began. But there has been undeniable progress on almost all of them including oil revenue sharing as part of the national budget, de-Baathification reform, and a provincial powers act.

Iraq today belongs to Iraqis; it is an ancient civilization with its own norms and tendencies.

Was this ever not true? What a non-sequitur.

It is entirely possible that in the absence of a cumbersome and clumsy American occupation, Iraqis will make their own bargains and compacts, heading off the genocide that many seem to anticipate. … Moreover, a U.S. withdrawal would finally compel the region to claim Iraq, forcing the Saudis, Iranians, Jordanians and others to decide whether a civil war is in their interests. Faced with that stark reality, they may seek to mediate rather than inflame Iraq’s squabbles.

It is also entirely probable that Iraq will descend into bloody anarchy. The Saudis, Iranians, Jordanians and others have never come together to peacefully coordinate their efforts on anything. It is more likely that after a rapid U.S. withdrawal these nations would each pursue their own narrow self interests in Iraq at the cost of regional stability.

In today’s Middle East, America is neither liked nor respected.

When was this last not true?

And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nowhere near resolution.

Again, when was this last not true?

America’s occupation of Iraq is estranging an entire generation of Arab youths, creating a reservoir of antagonism that will take decades to overcome.

The author’s seem to have no memory of how the containment of Saddam Hussein also made Arab youths hate the United States. Remember the same propagandist that worked on the Lancet’s Iraq casualties studies also helped convince the Arab world that U.S. sanctions killed more than a million Iraqi children.

At a time of mounting deficits, when we are spending about $10 billion a month in Iraq, issues such as reforming the health-care system and repairing the national infrastructure are likely to remain neglected.

This analysis completely ignores the real cause of mounting deficits: runaway domestic spending. Defense spending as a percent of GDP, at 4%, is at historic lows. Defense spending has actually grown faster than defense spending since 1990. Health care and anti-poverty spending are at record highs, with anti-poverty spending increasing 29% since 2001. And in the last 7 years domestic discretionary spending has increased 6.6$ a year on average.

Polls show the success of the surge in Iraq is rapidly undermining support for the kind of rapid withdrawal favors. No wonder Senate conservatives can’t wait to have this debate.

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