Alex Massie

Annals of Neoconservative Delusion: Leaving Iraq Edition - Spectator Blogs

Annals of Neoconservative Delusion: Leaving Iraq Edition - Spectator Blogs
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Douglas Murray's latest post is a rum 'un indeed. He asks us to believe that Barack Obama's "foreign policy boasts" are unraveling now that the American election is usefully out the way. I must say that the evidence for this is thin, not least since it seems to rely upon 1. A reported Iranian attack on a US drone, 2. General Petraeus having an affair, 3. The existence of long-planned Congressional hearings on the Benghazi nonsense and 4. The Iraqi government's decision to release from gaol a suspected Hezbollah operative responsible for an ambush in which five American troops were killed.

If this amounts to "unraveling" then I guess the President can live with it. According to Brother Murray, however:

In 2007 the Lebanese terrorist Ali Musa Daqduq organised an ambush in Karbala in which five US soldiers were killed. Captured by UK forces he was handed over to American personnel. President Obama refused to allow Daqduq to be deported to face trial in Guantanamo and, of course, wanted American troops out of Iraq in time for the recent US election. Daqduq was handed over to the Iraqis. The Iraqi courts have since failed to convict this high-ranking Hezbollah terrorist, who has the blood of American soldiers on his hands, and have ordered him to be released.

On the campaign trail Obama was boastful about having withdrawn American forces from Iraq. Perhaps if the case of Daqduq had been discussed in the New York Times and elsewhere before, rather than after, the election, the American people might have had more opportunity to reflect on what the point was of boasting of withdrawal when it does not come with victory?

To which the obvious response might be: What is the point of boasting about being tough enough to stay in Iraq when staying does not come with victory either?

Moreover, I'm pretty sure that even if the New York Times and other peacenik papers had spent more time discussing the case of Daqduq before the election this would not have made any appreciable difference to either the campaign or the result.

The American people wearied of their Mesopotamian entanglement long ago. Obama was elected, at least in part, because he pledged to wind down America's involvement in Iraq. True, campaign promises are conditional beasts but this was one from which it would have been awkward to walk away. And that's because the voters, damn their eyes, wanted the United States to leave Iraq.

The alternative - implied by Douglas - is for some kind of permanent American rule in Iraq and to hell with the American people and their preferences. Again, I'm not sure how realistic that proposal really is.

Which means that, at some point, the Iraqi government is going to have to make its own decisions. Many of those choices are likely to disappoint pundits who supported the war. So be it. How can it be otherwise? The alternative is some form of impossible permanent occupation that is both militarily unwise and politically impossible.

What is victory anyway? We know that, in many ways, it has not been achieved in Iraq. But if the Americans could not win in nine years of fighting and occupation then why should anyone presume they might suddenly prevail after ten or eleven years?

In the end, Douglas's argument falls back on the neoconservative belief that the United States can achieve anything if only it decides to want it badly enough. This is a lovely thought undermined by only one, small, detail: it isn't true. You can believe in Mechanised Ponies of Heroic Willpower all you want but they still aren't enough.

As for foreign policy and the election: well, just five percent of voters thought it the most important issue influencing their vote and Obama won those votes 56-33. Staying in Iraq would have done Obama much more damage than leaving. You may think that regrettable and that's fine. It don't change either the military or the political facts.