A few days ago, Jake Tapper of ABC posed a question that Harry Reid could not or would not answer:
OK -- let's be kind. Harry Reid 'answered the question' the way politicians traditionally do -- by restating a related point that he'd prefer us to focus on.
Folks on the Left are angry that conservatives can't accept Reid's response, and they see that Tapper question as over the line of journalism, and into 'advocacy' territory. ThinkProgress points us to a more complete answer to the question of what happens in Iraq after we leave. They say that:
[Getting U.S. troops out of Iraq’s multiple conflicts and positioning troops in neighboring countries puts the United States in a better position to]I took a longer excerpt than ThinkProgress, because I think the bracketed text is useful. Among other things, it helps us realize that this plan includes redeploying troops within the region. That probably includes Saudi Arabia, which would allow Osama bin Laden again to use the presence of US troops there as a reason for jihad.
prevent Iraq’s multiple sectarian conflicts from spreading beyond its borders and gives Iraq and its neighbors the right incentive to help resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts.
More broadly, the Reid view seems to be:
U.S. Policies Must Accept the Reality of Iraq’s FragmentationI find it ironic to speak of a 'moral obligation to the Iraqi people,' when the essence of the plan seems to be 'Iraq is hopeless, so wait for the civil war and genocide to shake themselves out and then deal with whoever's left standing.'
Iraq’s leaders are fundamentally at odds over what Iraq is, how power should be distributed, and who should control the nation’s oil wealth. To advance its own national security interests, the United States needs to come to grips with this new reality of Iraq’s fragmentation and respond by diversifying our military, diplomatic, and development presence in and around Iraq. We need to build on the efforts of the Bush administration to put more emphasis on provincial and local leadership rather than on working primarily with the national government.
The United States should mitigate the increasingly violent fragmentation in Iraq by ceasing the unconditional arming and training of Iraq’s national security forces until a political consensus and sustainable political solution is reached... Training and equipping Iraqi security forces risks making Iraq’s civil war even bloodier and more vicious than it already is today. It also increases the dangers that these weapons will one day be turned against the United States and its allies in the region.
Furthermore, the United States should discard its plan to build the world’s largest embassy in Baghdad and instead make plans to reassign diplomatic and intelligence personnel throughout Iraq and neighboring countries with adequate protection. We should encourage Middle East leaders and the United Nations to continue working with Iraq’s national leaders to peacefully settle their differences over power-sharing, but the United States should not unilaterally continue to try to force an immediate resolution of Iraq’s political disputes.
Where security conditions permit and where it is practically possible, the United States should reassign U.S. personnel to secure consulates around Iraq in order to assist in local efforts to address Iraq’s problems more effectively. The localities of Iraq are where politics shape Iraq’s future, not in the isolation of the Green Zone. Finally, to fulfill a key moral obligation to the Iraqi people, the United States should increase the number of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons it might accept annually from the current level of 7,000 to 100,000.
I'd also argue that to the extent that Democrats argue for US troops to remain in Iraq to fight Al Qaeda, this scenario renders that goal pretty difficult. After all, how do we find and eliminate the anti-US/Al Qaeda terrorists among the warring factions, without getting involved in the civil war?
As has been clear for a while, Democrats want to frame the Iraq question as 'do you want US troops to continue dying?' The answer to that is self-evident for anyone. The broader question ought to be 'how do we best serve US interests in Iraq and the region.' The answer to that question for many Americans might well be 'withdraw.' But given the dangers associated with the collapse of Iraq -- one essentially acknowledged here -- we ought to at least have the debate.