Argument By Labels Rather Than Logic on Iraq

Kevin Sullivan has responded to my last post on Iraq but continues to play the label game in lieu of using real arguments. His argument basically comes down to a claim that a stragegy which aims towards leaving Iraq is the position of those he calls progressive isolationists while liberals would agree with him and stay the course–regardless of the fact that very few liberals actually believe this.

Kevin is disappointed that I refuse to play the label game and am content in consider a strategy concentrated on diplomacy, international involvement, and disengagement from Iraq the liberal position simply because this is the position held by most liberals. (Many take the alternative path than Kevin and label anyone who opposes the Iraq war as liberal regardless of their positions on other issues.) Certainly an argument based upon liberalism can be made for our position, from opposing preemptive war based upon lies to the willingness to consider new ideas when the current strategy has failed as opposed to the conservative mind set of refusing to change. While arguments could be made based upon liberalism, the fundamental arguments for changing strategy remain pragmatic. For reasons I discussed in previous posts, it is in the strategic interests of the United States for us to change policy.

When Kevin applies theses labels he makes essentially the same mistake I discussed in Fallacies Regarding Doves, Iraq, And The Use of Military Force. Desiring to change policy in Iraq does not mean we are either doves or isolationists. It is simply a pragmatic choice based upon this particular situation. Most opponents of the current war supported the war in Afghanistan and other wars which we felt were in our national interest. Opponents of the war are not necessarily isolationists, and many of us see the war as a terrible distraction from the actions the United States should be taking, including mounting an effective program against al Qaeda and reducing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Kevin continues to attack straw men while ignoring all the reasons why we should change strategy by falsely claiming “one of the underlying principles appears to be that most American involvement overseas, whether it be militarily in Iraq, or psychologically in the case of Iran, is inherently bad. ” No, the principle is that there are sensible measures to take and there are foolish measures to take. Continuing our present course in Iraq is a foolish measure. The case of Iran is yet another argument against our current policy as the Iraq war only acts to strengthen Iran in the region. Being tied down in Iraq also limits our ability to take action against Iran to reduce the risk of their development of nuclear weapons.

Similarly Kevin attacks straw men when he says, “I believe Progressive Isolationists often want to have it both ways– Iraq is apparently a quagmire, just like Vietnam, however no other historical parallels need apply.” Again, we are being pragmatic not isolationist in opposing the war in Iraq. The post World War II situations and Korea are totally different. Kevin’s arguments for staying in the middle of a civil war in Iraq based upon those analogies simply makes no sense once you look at this from a pragmatic stand point as opposed to creating an absurd dichotomy where one must always be a interventionist/hawk versus an isolationist/dove. Those like Kevin who make decisions in this manner are guaranteed to be right some of the time and wrong others, as neither interventionism or isolationism is always the correct response.

I won’t bother to repeat the arguments for changing policy discussed in the previous post in detail except to note that Kevin misunderstands the Israeli analogy. Israel shows the difficulties of long term occupation. Kevin’s response that “withdrawing from Gaza certainly hasn’t prevented radicalization there by any stretch” is rather irrelevant. Israel is still engaged in the region, and there is no possibility of this changing. Simply withdrawing from Gaza would hardly be enough to change hardened attitudes. While Israel does not have the option of leaving the region militarily, we do have far more options that Israel in reducing our military involvement. The continued radicalization is also further evidence of our need to change course. This is ultimately a battle for hearts and minds, and the longer we remain viewed as occupiers the harder it will be to end this cycle of radicalization.

There are certainly problems with any course in Iraq, however as I noted before our continued stay only worsens these problems. Any problems we will face by leaving over the next year will be even worse if we stay five, ten, or twenty years. The current policy has failed and the burden of proof no lies on those who want to remain in the midst of a civil war. Rather than providing proof, Kevin can only play the label game and attack straw men.

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