Saturday, November 11, 2006

George McGovern and William R. Polk in Harpers

If I don't blog this I will have failed as an old-fashioned, Sixties-style Liberal. I never expected to see the name of George McGovern appear again as anything other than a footnote, but as this article in Harpers indicates, he is alive and well and ready to give input into contemporary issues.

Okay, all you who thought he might be dead and gone, hold your noses, wipe those sneers off your faces and read this.

Remember as you read that nasty "cut and run" epithet that has been so carelessly been hurled at anyone who dared suggest that "stay the course" might...just an ill-advised course of action.

This plan is not about to happen next week, but it covers a lot of territory that has apparently been overlooked for the last couple of years. We got hit with a terrorist event on 9/11, five years ago. Okay, the response was to go to war in Afghanistan in an effort to locate and destroy UBL and the perpetrators of that event. So far, so good.

But that was not enough. We had then to topple Saddam Hussein because he was thought to be the next big threat to the US because he was on the verge of developing the means to replicate and maybe out-perform the 9/11 even with something even more terrible.

Okay, we did that. But in the aftermath of "regime change" the expected celebration of his downfall did not hold. Instead, the presence of the US military in Iraq combined with already in place forces waiting to fill the power-vacuum following Saddam's defeat resulted in a political, military and economic quagmire of historic proportions.

At that point, some two or three years back, it was time for a change of plans. Unfortunatly there seemed to be no Plan B.

There still isn't a Plan B but at least the idea is finally up for discussion. This article is not the end of that discussion. It is the beginning. Sadly, it is about two years and a couple thousand American lives too late.

Withdrawal is not only a political imperative but a strategic requirement. As many retired American military officers now admit, Iraq has become, since the invasion, the primary recruiting and training ground for terrorists. The longer American troops remain in Iraq, the more recruits will flood the ranks of those who oppose America not only in Iraq but elsewhere.
When a driver is on the wrong road and headed for an abyss, it is a bad idea to “stay the course.” A nation afflicted with a failing and costly policy is not well served by those calling for more of the same, and it is a poor idea to think that we can accomplish in the future what we are failing to accomplish in the present.
...the Iraqi government would be wise to request the temporary services of an international stabilization force to police the country during and immediately after the period of American withdrawal....the composition of such a force most acceptable if it were drawn from Arab or Muslim countries....It would benefit both Iraq and the United States if we were to pay for this force. Assuming that a ballpark figure would be $500 per man per day, and that 15,000 men would be required for two years, the overall cost would be $5.5 billion. That is approximately 3 percent of what it would cost to continue the war, with American troops, for the next two years. Not only would this represent a great monetary saving to us but it would spare countless American lives and would give Iraq the breathing space it needs to recover from the
trauma of the occupation in a way that does not violate national and religious sensibilities.

We cannot prevent the reconstitution of an Iraqi army, but we should not, as we are currently doing, actually encourage this at a cost of billions to the American taxpayer. If at all possible, we should encourage Iraq to transfer what soldiers it has already recruited for its army into a national reconstruction corps modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The United States could assist in the creation and training of just such a reconstruction corps, which would undertake the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by the war, with an allocation of, say, $500 million, or roughly the cost of two days of the current occupation.

Lots more at the link. This strikes me as the beginning of what in other contexts is called "brainstorming." That's how creative solutions to complicated challenges are addressed in the business world. Most of the private sector does this kind of thing all the time. Result: no one gets credit for success because the parts involve too many individuals.

Two courageous and experienced individuals, George McGovern and William R. Polk, have put together an outline that needs to be looked at, discussed and argued about at length. In the end we should see a plan that is smarter, less expensive and more effective at curbing terrorism than anything we have seen for the last two or three years. Incidentally, the cost in dead and wounded American young people will also be predictably lower.

Thanks Truthout for the link.

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