Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Toward a Center

Here's a framework for agreement between the center-left and the center-right on Iraq. I've never written such a thing before, and I'm sure it could be improved and expanded [suggestions welcome]. And obviously the issues don't have hard edges and "Iraq" seeps into bigger and smaller matters. But it might be worth finding out whether we have more in common with one another than with the fringes.

  • The right side will acknowledge that the current state of much of Iraq is a mess, that the Coalition's war featured inadequate planning and false expectations, and that political chicanery and intelligence failures have done great damage to American reputations abroad.

  • The left side will keep in mind that the world is better without Saddam, WMD now or WMD later, and that the Iraqis are free of him and ought to have the world's support in building a nation that they truly rule. That much of Iraq is at peace and flourishing, and that probably only Hitler ever went to war with proper planning and accurate expectations, and even in his case only occasionally.

  • The right will stop proclaiming the insurgency is on its last legs.

  • The left will stop dreaming of a hard-and-fast exit strategy.

  • The right side will acknowledge that the international institutions in existence, imperfect as they may be, are here, and occasionally have served the world well. New and better ones ought to be devised, but a return to a geopolitical "state of nature" is not desirable.

  • The left side will acknowledge that international institutions have serious deficiencies, and many of the so-called international legal institutions have built-in presumtions about sovereignty and popular control that Americans might want to take a long, hard look at.

  • The right side will reserve "treason" and "traitor" for people who actually levy war against the U.S. or give material aid to those who do so.

  • The left side will drop the assertion that only those Americans who have served in the military in combat are fit to be political leaders of the nation or to advocate for military solutions.

  • The right side, while supporting the U.S. military as an honorable and capable force, will yet acknowledge the problems it is heir to, which the Founders of America warned of in their repeated injunctions against standing armies in times of peace. At the same time, the right side will advocate for support of military families and veterans even when the battles are over and the soldiers are back home.

  • The left side, while defending U.S. Muslims and Arab-Americans against prejudice and injustice, will yet acknowledge that Islam contains the same tendencies that make many American liberals uncomfortable with a dominant Christianity, and in a higher degree. And that the war aims and inspirations of our deadliest enemies are rooted in their religion; they dragged their faith into this fight, not us.

  • Among ourselves we will acknowledge that, whatever the state of connection between Iraq and terrorists in 2002, the country is, today, a front in the conflict between America and Islamist terrorism, and ought to be thought of as such.

  • Among ourselves, we all will seek out and support candidates for high office based on their appreciation of the realities of the situation in Iraq, and their commitment to the long-term success of that country's democratic governance and stability.

  • Among ourselves, we will acknowledge that a real solution to Middle Eastern problems cannot come about without a resolution of the Arab-Isreali conflict. That this involves security and recognition for Israel, a peaceful and empowered Palestinian people, and an end to poisonous Jew-baiting by Israel's neighbors.

  • Among ourselves, in the matter of national self-interest, we will drop all talk of whether this war was a good idea until 20 years from the date of commencement of the war.

ADDENDA: Everyone agrees, Iraq today is not "Vietnam 1968." Iraq also is not "Germany 1946."

Use of "Hitler" or "Nazi" in reference to political opponents is automatically punished by 6 hours duct-taped to a chair in a room into which is blaring (1. Lee Greenwood cassettes 2. Michael Moore movies) whichever hurts most.