Hunter wrote one of the most pessimistic diaries that I have seen on Iraq. Basicly, he outlines a grim future for Iraq in which there will be American troops there for a good long time, although the numbers would be greatly reduced from this year’s figures.

But this is all about a matter of priorities for this country — should we be taking care of someone else’s problems, or should we be taking care of our own first?

Case in point — A McClachty investigation found that over 16 million Americans are living in severe poverty.
Hunter, in his diary, gives three possible grim outcomes that he fears might happen in Iraq:

1) There are going to be American troops in Iraq for the next ten years, though the numbers will be substantially reduced.

  1. There are going to be permanent American bases in Iraq, just as the neoconservatives had desired.
  2. Iraq is going to continue to be in a period of instability for years, and become a true haven for terrorism and religious strife, and there is very little we can do about it.

He continues:

To this day — to this very day — I would support leaving American forces in Iraq if there were any credible possibility of stabilizing the country.

This reasoning is based on a totally faulty premise — the premise that we are somehow still in control of the situation at any level. The posturing of the Bush administration and their massive phony offensives, including the so-called “surge,” has had its effect — it is widely believed, even in Democratic circles, that we somehow have some kind of control over the situation. But with the massive bombings taking place all over Iraq with ever-increasing sophistication and intensity, all of this shows that we in fact have no control anymore whatsoever over the situation.

In the meantime, think of what we could be doing instead — finding ways of addressing the poverty situation and keeping the poor from becoming hungry or homeless. With all the hundreds of billions of dollars that we are spending on the occupation of Iraq, think of all the solar and wind power plants we could build. We could get out of the Middle East, build a solar or wind farm in every county of the country, and bring in massive new revenues for schools and local governments, which could turn around and spend the money on anti-poverty programs. Not only that, we could get an ethanol or biofuel plant in every town that has over 10,000 people. In addition, we spend money for research and design so that we could find ever-more efficient ways of producing alternative fuels so that we could lower our carbon footprint on this earth.

The fact of the matter is that we are much more effective when we live by moral example than we do by military might. We spent billions of dollars in unnecessary nuclear weapons and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the 1980’s. On more than one occasion, we almost died. Yet what brought down the Soviet Union was not our military might, but the moral example of our country, which was a living example to the rest of the world about what a country could accomplish for its people through a liberal democracy.

And the same could be accomplished in the Middle East. The best way to bring down extreme Islamism is not through military prowess, but through the example of our democracy, showing the rest of the world the way forward. Iran has a disproportionate number of young people. They all love everything about American culture and our way of life. If we could back off from our militaristic ways and work on leading by example, these people would be the vanguard of a movement to overthrow the dictators of Iran and restore democracy to that country for the first time since 1953.

Hunter then goes on to talk in apocalyptic language about what might happen should we leave:

If leaving the current troop levels in place could truly prevent another 100,000 Iraqi deaths, then it would be our duty to do it. If Petraeus’ plan had a reasonable chance of working, it would be our obligation to try. A miserable truth, yes, but a moral truth nonetheless.

Because some of the possible outcomes, here — civil war, genocide, religious radicalization leading to possible regional war — are nearly unthinkable and yet, thanks to the bungling, almost incomprehensible incompetence of the Bush administration, we’re thinking them. The odds continue to be extremely high that one of those worst case scenarios — and you know you are truly and deeply sunk when there are multiple worst case scenarios vying for prominence — may indeed happen.

But the fact of the matter is that the Iraqi people have to want to build a better country for themselves. If they wish to split up into three different countries, then who are we to tell them no? Unless our handover was nothing more than a charade. No amount of military force will prevent the situation from spiraling out of control if the Iraqi people are not willing to accept our authority or the authority of the people that we put into place. The Iraqi people have to solve their own problems.

If there is to be a genocide in Iraq, it will happen regardless of anything that we ever do about it. Note that I said above that the situation has spiraled completely out of our control. That includes genocide.

And Hunter misses another basic point. No occupation will ever work unless we have the consent of the governed. No reasonable person can argue that we have the support of the Iraqi people. We did not have the consent of the governed in Vietnam, and the British did not have the consent of the governed back in 1776. And the opposition to our presence in Iraq is a lot stronger than the opposition to the other two occupations.

And Hunter labors under another false premise:

But a Vietnam-style abandonment of the country seems extraordinarily unlikely.

But Hunter, right above that statement, admits:

the best case scenario is a slow bleed if we stay, and a slow bleed if we go.

In other words, our presence there is having no effect on the situation. But as for the faulty premise of withdrawal meaning abandonment, no, I would never advocate that we abandon Iraq. We should take John Kerry’s advice and convene a regional conference between the neighboring powers over the future of Iraq. In other words, help them develop a plan to stabilize the violence in Iraq and handle the inevitable refugee crisis that will result. We should take in a sizable number of refugees from Iraq like we did Vietnamese refugees after that war was over. We should have talks with other countries about taking in refugees as well. In that event, at least a few will be able to start new lives again and get away from the horror of their homeland.

And it is a known fact that immigrants create jobs — many of these refugees could create jobs for which they could hire some of the people here in this country who are extremely poor. Established businesses would create new jobs to handle the new arrivals and fill the new demand.

The fact of the matter is that the situation there is a slow bleed if we stay and a slow bleed if we go. If we go, we can at least begin to address our own problems here at home and free up the money that was used for Iraq to be used to rescue people from poverty. If we stay, we will have an even bigger problem on our hands — taking care of the Iraqi people and taking care of our own people as well.