Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Janus of Brian Baird

Ugh. Brian Baird (D – WA Vancouver), as I’m sure you’ve read here, here, or maybe even here has had a change of heart, of sorts, over the continued U.S. occupation of Iraq. “We’re on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work” he says, “People may be upset. I wish I didn’t have to say this.”

Well, I’m not so sure he does.

First, he basically calls for another Friedman Unit which will, so the story goes, bring about a miraculous change in the situation in the Middle East. Quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. Six months will not be enough to change anything in that country. It wasn’t true six months ago, it wasn’t true twelve months ago, and it wasn’t true eighteen months ago. What makes him think anything will be different now? As Blue Girl pointed out earlier today, the surge doesn’t seem to be having any significant effect on U.S. troop deaths for this summer relative to other summers during this occupation. The difference between the winter, spring, and summer months has been, largely, attributed to the increased difficulty of combat during 120 degree afternoons; when seasonal variables are controlled, the combat deaths are on a steady rise.

Second, he suggests that we’re making “real progress” in Iraq, and that the “consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility.” Real progress? What’s that mean? How do you measure that? How do you know? Oh, the military told you? Well, I think the Brookings data casts a shadow of doubt on that claim. And anyway, as many people have noted, the military is all but powerless to end this conflict without the support of political progress. So, Rep. Baird, what political progress have you seen? The loss of the Sunni partners in the Iraqi governing coalition? The failure to pass a national oil law? Or is it the increasing balkanization of Iraq into ethno-religious enclaves? I’m not suggesting that, once we leave, it’ll be all gumdrops and lollipops for the Iraqis, but our presence just seems to be exacerbating the problem. I am sure there will be blood shed in Iraq once we leave, maybe even a surge of bloodshed, but our occupation is only putting off the inevitable. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU INVADE COUNTRIES AND DESTROY THEIR INSTITUTIONS.

Third, what was so awe inspiring about your trip to Baghdad, Rep. Baird? Did you really get down and dirty in Baghdad? Did you take coffee with shop keepers in some backwater market place and discuss the shining prospects of the new influx of FDI into the country? Did you really get to smell the people? Take them in? Let them cry on your shoulder? Or did you get led around by the nose by some military PR officer or a 20-something lackey from the State Department who introduced you to all kinds of Iraq translators who just love the American occupation? I’m sorry, but I’m just not convinced.

To Baird’s credit, though, I’m sure that he must really believe all this, because it certainly isn’t in his political best interest to reverse his position this way. Baird represents Washington’s 3rd district, which includes the cities of Olympia (very anti-war) and Vancouver, two cities (and counties) that tend to vote strongly democratic, and are (if the polling holds true) strongly anti-war. Of course, given our political institutions, Baird is unlikely to suffer for this policy position, as no Republican is going to beat him on the war issue, and no Democrat is likely to win the nomination from a pretty popular incumbent. However, in two weeks, I will be moving from Bellingham, WA, to Olympia, and Baird will be my new representative. You can rest assured that once I’ve got that new zip code attached to my voter registration card I’ll be sending a steady stream of e-mails and letters his way.

UPDATE: You should all check out Switzerblog's post on the trouble with moral clarity over at Evergreen Politics. He engages the the idea of our moral responsibilities in Iraq pretty well.