Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Rebirth of Dishonor

[posted by Callimachus]

The anti-war side, exhilarated by election victories and waving its mandates, is talking about what it wishes to accomplish in Iraq in reality, not just in pipe dreams.

It's not the proposals themselves that so revolt me -- the practical possibilities of what can be proposed are as limited as they were before the election.

It's not even the fact that whatever is being proposed is a mask for the immaturity of a desire to simply run away from Iraq as fast as our Humvees will carry us. Similar proposals in the mouths of the current White House administration were a mask, too: A mask for "buy more time till we think of something or else a miracle happens."

It's the accompanying attitude that reveals what will be accepted with a shrug and a smile, what will be overlooked and buried in the footnotes.

As in this post by the Democratic half of Balloon Juice. Almost casually, amid the formulations, is this glib, cheerful toss-off line:

Retreat is a risky maneuver so let’s do it right.

As though the perception of America's spinelessly losing a war to deadly anti-modern enemies will have no consequences for the American military or the rest of the world. As though letting the ghouls torture all the Iraqis who believed in America's promises will be a negligible side-effect of a maneuver no more difficult than an elementary school fire drill. The Kurds? No one to blame but themselves, it seems:

The latest poll: Iraqis overwhelmingly want the US to leave. That includes a solid majority of both the Shia and Sunni communities. Kurds, of course, gambled on the US protecting their separatism forever and would like to see us hang around a bit longer.

Emphasis added. The more fools them, eh? "WE never promised you anything. You just THOUGHT that we were serious this time. You lose. So don't go blaming me, pal. Now run along and play nice with your new al-Qaida overlords." [Shorter alternative answer: "We're the Democrats. We never promised you shit."]

As in 1975. At least in 1991 we left them with air cover. No indication in the Balloon Juice post that even that will be forthcoming when the Democrats rule America's foreign policy.

Nothing was so shameful about America's experience in Vietnam as the leaving of it. The failure to honor the obligation to defend it. Nothing left me more bitter in 1975 than the abandonment of those hill tribes and urban civil servants who had been cultivated by the U.S. powers since the early 1960s. At least when the German armies retreated on the Eastern Front they let their client peoples ride with them rather than leave them to the cossacks' long knives.

And here we go again. The Americans had no particular interest in the Kurds in the 1970s, except as part of its deal with the Shah of Iran to build him up overnight into a bulwark of stability in the region, a buffer against the Kremlin, and a replacement for the British military power being withdrawn from the Persian Gulf.

In other words, it was part of a fatal and lazy effort to shirk superpower responsibilities by hiring a proxy utterly unfitted to handle a sudden injection of money and power.

When the Shah flipped on Iraq, and discovered he could win turf disputes by strong-arming a deal at the negotiating table, he dropped the Kurds like a hot potato and the Americans let him. The results are the ones hinted at in Saddam's recent trial. Mass graves still are being discovered.

Here is what the new anti-war realists are going to sound like in a few years. Here is Henry Kissinger's best effort to explain away America's first betrayal of the Kurds:

They claim "misleading promises to the Kurds," as if that suffering people had been triggered into fighting Iraq by our representations to them. The fact is that when the US decision to support the Kurds was made in July 1972, the Kurds had already been fighting Saddam's oppression for several years. They were supported by Britain, Iran, Israel, and neighboring countries. Nixon was asked to support them in 1972 when the Soviet Union, disappointed in Egypt, began to pour arms into Iraq beyond the capacity of the Kurds' existing sponsors to match. Without our help, the Kurds would have been destroyed earlier —- that was our real choice.

Judt next asserts that we "abandoned" the Kurds. The fact is that in 1975 when the issue of expanded support came up, it was for $300 million and two Iranian divisions at the precise moment that Congress was cutting off all aid to Vietnam and Cambodia. Does Judt believe such a request would have succeeded? The Shah did not and threw in his hand. It is possible to argue the practical issue; to elevate it to a moral assault is at a minimum inappropriate.

Emphasis added. Realpolitik at its ugliest. Leave morality out of it, please. We're just doing what has to be done for the greater good. And don't ask us to think about what that means. Leave honor and responsibility out as well. Blame it all on someone else. And just shrug and say, as you walk away, "without our help, you would have died even sooner."

Get used to it. It's back.

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