I find myself in political limbo.
I don't agree with the president and I don't agree with his opponents. I'm not convinced by the argument for sending 21,000 additional troops mainly to Baghdad, and I'm downright incensed at Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting along (Democratic) party lines (plus GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska) to declare this same so-called troop surge to be against "the national interest."
The president's argument fails to convince me that the effort required to secure Baghdad, which comes down to American troops quashing sectarian street violence, is worth the price. It's hard to imagine that an increased American presence, which is necessarily temporary, will win more than a pause in the violence, which goes back centuries. But I'm also unconvinced that the mission itself is of strategic value to the United States. My great concern, as I have written before, is that it's very possible that renewed American fighting in Baghdad, if successful -- which, as Americans, we must hope it to be -- will not only stabilize the chaotic capital of Iraq, but will also entrench its Shiite-led, pro-Hezbollah, anti-Western government. This suggests that victory in Iraq may deliver not a new brother for the anti-terror coalition, but rather a perfect ally for Iran. And what kind of American victory is that?
A victory for democracy, I guess. In his State of the Union address this week, President Bush was still chanting the democracy mantra, insisting that "free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies" -- this after a whole lot of free people across the Islamic world have democratically shown themselves to be drawn to just such ideologies. Even so, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, whom Bush has tapped to execute his new Iraq strategy, has noted the limited transformative powers of democracy. Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, the general said, "The elections that gave us such hope actually intensified sectarian divisions in the population at the expense of the sense of the Iraqi identity."