August 11th, 2007

The Democratic candidates and the pullout: will they find themselves in the Nixon position?

This NY Times article describes how the Democratic Presidential candidates are starting to offer a few more ideas about how they might manage an Iraqi pullout, if elected.

I guess they’ve given up on their earlier strategy of pressuring Bush. Now they seem to be accepting that the consequences of actually attaining power in 2008 might be the need to fulfill their own campaign promises rather than to get Bush to do it for them.

Which means that the Democrats now fear the “helicopters on the roof” scenario that I wrote about here. The President presiding over that debacle was Ford, but the drawdown of troops that preceded it—known as “Vietnamization,” was Nixon’s fulfillment of his own 1968 campaign promises (see this) to reduce the number of US forces while making the South Vietnamese take more responsibility for the fight.

Nixon’s policy was a slow one; the elimination of active US fighting forces in Vietnam took many years:

vietnamization.png

We supported the South Vietnamese military with money and equipment for several more years. The end, when it came—forced by the Democratic Congress of the time, with the weakened and unelected President Ford in charge instead of the disgraced Nixon—featured those famous helicopter emblems of retreat, shame, and abandonment.

What do the Democrats plan now that they realize they might need to preside over something similar? Their basic message is still “withdraw,” but the details given by most of the frontrunners are vague, with suggestions that the process would involve some time rather occurring very quickly, and would need to feature protection from the possibility of an Iraqi bloodbath or genocide.

It’s a good sign that the Democratic candidates are beginning to take tentative steps towards the reality of Iraq and what a precipitous withdrawal would probably mean. But nothing indicates they know how to go about preventing one, or protecting the troops and the Iraqi people from the consequences of such a pullout. As the Times says:

…[the Democratic Presidential candidates] all discuss a mix of vigorous diplomacy in the region, intensified pressure on the Iraqi government and a phased withdrawal of troops to begin as soon as possible. But their statements in campaign settings are often silent on the problems of how to disengage and what tradeoffs might be necessary.

Perhaps that’s because previously they really believed they had the power to make the current administration handle it, and so they didn’t think they had to come up with much in the way of a program.

Candidate Bill Richardson (who is unlikely to actually win the nomination) seems to be the most minimalist of all. His proposal is a model of simplicity: I have a one-point plan to get out of Iraq: Get out! Get out!

Doesn’t inspire much faith, does he—except perhaps in moveon.org members.

It’s a strange irony that Democrats may find themselves in the position of the hated and reviled Nixon, attempting to finish a war they feel they bear no responsibility for having started (despite their vote in support of it; that’s why the “Bush lied” meme is so important for them), and inheriting all its conundrums, risks, and dilemmas.

15 Responses to “The Democratic candidates and the pullout: will they find themselves in the Nixon position?”

  1. University Update - Bill Richardson - The Democratic candidates and the pullout: will they find themselves in the Nixon position? Says:

    […] Clark Contact the Webmaster Link to Article bill richardson The Democratic candidates and the pullout: will they find themselves in […]

  2. Jean Says:

    Anyway, why do u want to stay there ?

  3. Trimegistus Says:

    Jean:

    We think that it would be best for the people of Iraq and the stability of the region if the U.S. maintains a presence there — to help Iraqi forces defend their people against terrorist attack, and prevent neighboring regimes from trying to move in.

    Really. That’s what we really want. Peace and stability in Iraq. Not “stealing their oil,” not “genocide,” and especially not “imperialism.” Just peace and stability.

    Removing our troops now would bring neither. It would plunge Iraq into a nightmare of civil war and foreign invasion. Nobody wants that.

    Setting a specific date for withdrawal would be just as bad. The terrorists, violent internal Iraqi factions, and aggressive neighbors would all simply circle that date on their calendars, and wait us out. As soon as our troops are gone — nightmare of civil war and foreign invasion again. So nobody wants that either.

    The best way to promote peace and stability in Iraq is for everyone to understand that the Iraqi democracy will have Uncle Sam watching its back as long as necessary. The terrorists will have to either attack now or wither away into ineffectiveness. The various Iraqi facitons will have to put aside violence and actually build a functioning nation. Ambitious neighbors will have to find something else to do.

    The U.S. has had troops in Germany and Japan for more than fifty years, and everyone pretty much agrees it’s been a good thing for them and their respective regions. Both are peaceful and stable, titans of the global economy and respected leaders of the community of nations. In a few decades, with American help, who knows? Iraq may be the same.

    Now that I’ve answered you, let’s hear your plan. How do you think we can best ensure peace and stability for the people of Iraq and their region?

  4. Grimmy Says:

    “Anyway, why do u want to stay there ?”

    Because running away from the enemy simply because things are difficult is the act of degenerate, filthy, spineless cowards.

    And, such actions are only advocated or favored by those who’s aim, goal and intention is to assist the enemy in a victory.

    Betrayers and cowards, quite often find themselves wedded and bedded together.

  5. Grimmy Says:

    It is the same for a man, a force or a nation. To present your back to the enemy is to invite the destruction that surely follows.

    Ad Triarios Redisse!

  6. Nobody Says:

    Being pro-war is like being pro-surgery. Right now the USA is in the middle of a heart transplant operation on Iraq. Quitting would leave the patient bleeding to death on the operating table.

    The surge is by definition temporary. The correct response would be to pull out and wait for the situation to change back into the terrorists’ favor.

    Terrorists do not have the discipline and patience to pursue this strategy with their enemy on their own soil.

    So they continue sticking their heads into the meat grinder, while George W. Bush has ahold of the handle.

  7. Tom Says:

    Think of the US and Iraq as a couple in a troubled marriage, where a sudden “Get out” is agreed as not the way to resolve the problems:

    !) “Vigorous diplomacy”=talking with the other’s friends and enemies about the marriage’s problems

    2)vigorous pressure on the Iraqi government”=vigorous pressure on spouse B to improve and do more, in order that spouse A can do less

    3) “Phased withdrawal of troops”= a phased reduction of assets earned by the bigger-earning spouse and contributed to the marriage, due to a separate property agreement between the spouses

    Now, with these solving steps, what chance has that marriage to survive? And what about the children?

  8. Ymarsakar Says:

    I had a four point list of reasons for staying in Iraq. Actually 3 since the first goal was over.

    1, Arab intelligence.

    2. Experience and combat blooded troops, Iraqi or American. Meaning more of them.

    3. Logistics base from which to launch further attacks.

    Europe isn’t allowed to attack each other because the US says no. And other nations can’t attack nations across the globe because they can’t. So the US’s responsibilities are not shared by anyone else, thus making it hard for other people to understand why the US stays in Iraq.

  9. Jephnol Says:

    “…attempting to finish a war they feel they bear no responsibility for having started (despite their vote in support of it…)”

    This is why we need head-doctors, because that’s just mental.

  10. Nobody Says:

    The Democrats will talk, but not pull out. The insane antics of the current Congress are just a distraction from that.

    Terrorists are like cockroaches. They flee when they feel threatened. Instead they are attracted with bait and killed when they show up.

    Iraq has been turned into a giant Roach Motel for terrorists. They are attacking trained, armed soldiers ready to not only defend themselves, but go on the attack as necessary.

    The main stream media has convinced the terrorists that they can win by attacking the deployed army of the most formidable military force in the history of the world. The NY Times is sacrificing itself to accomplish this goal.

    They’re defeating the terrorists using the lowest, vilest means available. They’re giving them hope.

    There is no parallel here with Vietnam. The movers and shakers in the USA are reminded of what they have to lose every time they pass by Ground Zero. September 11, 2001 doomed Muslim fanatics by pissing off the wrong people: the American power elite.

  11. Mark Says:

    Moving the primaries up earlier will allow the candidates to better garner the support of the far fringes in the primary and then edge back toward the center in the extended campaign interlude. Since the “moonbats” represent a larger fraction of the Democratic vote than the “wingnuts” represent in the Republican vote, and since the “independent” center is probably more important to the Republicans, this will work to the advantage of the Democrats. It also allows more time for people to forget about bilateral auto-pedal indigestion like Mr. Barak’s suggestions about invading a badly needed nuclear-armed ally.

  12. Daveg Says:

    The NY Times is sacrificing itself to accomplish this goal.

    You (perhaps accidentally) make them sound so noble. You will never convince me of that.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    The NYTimes are nobles, however. But like all aristocracy, time has made them decadent and corrupt.

    It used to be that aristocrats exercised the power of High and Low justice because they were the only ones around to enforce law and order. As time passes however, the power goes to their heads and they refuse to relinquish it, even when better systems arrive to fill the need.

  14. Nobody Says:

    “I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times
    in five years, and you know what? I don’t care either.”
    Arthur Sulzberger, Owner, Chairman, and Publisher of the NY Times

  15. GM's Corner Says:

    Brief Politico-Therapy: A Tour of the Psych Bloggers…

    It has been a while since I last toured the Psych bloggers, those intrepid bunch of mental health professionals as we take a look at their take on politics, the human condition and anything else that catches my eye. …

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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