Sunday, April 13, 2008

Clear Talking About Moqtada al-Sadr

You have to search for it, but the torrent of hot air about the justifications for continuing the U.S. occupation of Iraq actually includes some highly perceptive remarks. Consider, for example, Joe Klein's concluding comments in a nice review of the Petraeus hearings:

the Petraeus battle plan apparently includes an anti-Sadrist move,
which may mean a spurt of violence as widespread and vicious as the worst of the Sunni insurgency. Is that why the general wants a "pause" in the U.S. withdrawal this summer?

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Perhaps it is that Sadr's Mahdi Army is the most potent force opposed to long-term U.S. bases
in Iraq—and that a permanent presence has been the Bush administration's true goal in this war. I suspect the central question in Iraq now is not whether things will get better but whether the drive for a long-term, neocolonialist presence will make the situation irretrievably worse.

Another example is the refreshingly clear comments by Matthew Yglesias that follow, which, to summarize, argue that Moqtada is not anti-American, he wants a free Iraq. That may be anti-Bush or anti-Cheney or anti-empire (if Joe Klein is correct), but it is not anti-American.

We oppose Sadr because Sadr opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Indeed, at times he opposes it through violent means that lead to the death of our troops. But "killing people who oppose the U.S. military presence in Iraq" isn't a reasonable rationale for the U.S. military presence in Iraq. This is what's led Joe Klein to speculate that the anti-Sadr tilt is driven by our quest for permanent military bases. Sadr is an opponent of what we're doing in Iraq, but he doesn't have some larger conflict with the United States -- he's not plotting an invasion of Delaware, he's willing to sell oil on an open market,
etc. -- and while his credentials as a liberal democrat are highly suspect, so are those of the people we work with in Iraq (and Saudi Arab, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, etc.) all the time. That's not to say we should partner-up with Sadr or wish him particularly well in his adventures, but it's just to reiterate the point that we could easily afford to adopt a posture of indifference to Iraq's internal political disputes and just go home.

No comments: