Monday, March 28, 2005

Paging Greg Djerejian

There was a spirited back and forth between Matt Yglesias and Greg Djerejian last week when Greg responded with muted ferocity to a post by Yglesias in which the latter suggested that the time was right to begin drawing down troops in Iraq. Djerejian seized on Yglesias's words to take shots at everyone from Matt himself to John Kerry and the Clinton administration - or what he termed "the abdication of responsibility laden Clinton years." One wonders whether the pass the buck-find no fault-no mistakes ever era of the Bush administration has blunted Greg's sense of irony. No matter.

Even though Matt sent an email to Djerejian trying to explain that his position was not calling for an immediate removal of all troops from the region, Djerejian would have none of it.

How misguided of Yglesias to call for a major troop reduction at this juncture! I won't bore you with the reasons why a paring down of our forces to, say, fewer than 100,000 would be a gross error at this juncture. But very briefly, suffice it to say Matt is wrong....

Matt is a smart and intellectually honest guy--which is why I take the time to respond to him. But this isn't one of those where we can simply split the difference, be happy to meet half-way, and vibe with the fellow-feeling. Matt wants to draw-down troops in Iraq, er, like now. And I don't for a while yet. It's up to the readers to decide who is on the right side of this one. Reader persuasion aside, however, I'm heartened that the person who matters most, George Bush, is in accord with B.D.'s take. And Kerry isn't and wasn't. Declaring victory and going home is so much easier, isn't it? Also morally defunct and an abdication of American responsibility on the global stage. Clintonian, in a word. But not Yglesiasian, one hopes?
A recent column by conservative pundit Robert Novak (via Laura Rozen) has raised the prospect that the current occupant of the White House may not exactly be "in accord with B.D.'s take." According to Novak, Bush is looking a lot like Greg's version of Kerry, and Matt Y for that matter.

Determination high in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year is reinforced by the presence at the State Department of the most dominant secretary since Henry Kissinger three decades ago. Condoleezza Rice is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection.

Amid the presidential campaign's furious debate over Iraq, I reported last Sept. 20 ("Getting Out of Iraq") about strong feeling in the policymaking apparatus to get out of Iraq in 2005 even if democracy and peace had not been achieved there. My column evoked widespread expressions of disbelief, but changes over the last six months have only strengthened the view of my Bush administration sources that the escape from Iraq should begin once a permanent government is in place in Baghdad. [emphasis added]
If Novak's sources are to be trusted, the timetable for withdrawal is, at least in relation to certain goals like democracy and stability, superseding the importance of other measures of progress . Novak sees Condi Rice behind this mini-paradigm shift.

"She is not controlled by the neo-cons insisting on achieving a perfect democracy before we go," a colleague told me. That reflects not only the national consensus but also the preponderance of Republican opinion. Without debating the wisdom of military intervention in Iraq two years ago, President Bush's supporters believe it now is time to go and leave the task of subduing the insurgents to Iraqis.
In fact, Novak even goes as far as to offer us a glimpse at some of the spin we can expect in the aftermath of the pullout:

But how does the president rationalize an escape from Iraq with his Inaugural Address's embrace of a Wilsonian or neo-conservative dogma to spread democracy worldwide? Bush officials who want to reduce the military profile in the region argue that the grassroots democratic sentiment boiling up in Lebanon is to get rid of Syrian troops, not to welcome American troops.

Escape from Iraq for George W. Bush, however, does abandon the neo-con dream of micromanaging creation of a democratic state in Iraq.
I'll be the first to say that Bob Novak could be very wrong on this, but one has to wonder what the response would be over at Belgravia Dispatch if such a path were taken. It would be hard to believe that Djerejian could countenance the pursuit of such a "morally defunct...abdication of responsibility" without venting his ire on President Bush with the same fervor he normally reserves for Clinton and Kerry (with an occasional heart felt swipe at Rumsfeld). He might just end up alienating more of his right-leaning readership. No worries Greg, you still have the Liberals Against Terrorism crowd.

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