The Boot Drops Again

Max Boot once again attacks my position on Iraq. He concedes:

I will end on a note of concurrence. “If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying,” you write. I agree. My point was that the Iraqis aren’t asking us to leave because, unlike you and other anti-war voices in the United States, they realize that the consequences of a an overly hasty American pullout would be catastrophic.

But the Iraqis aren't asking for an "overly hasty" pullout. They are asking for assurances of an eventual withdrawal. There's more:

"perhaps you could provide some convincing evidence that the U.S. can invade a country, topple its regime, leave immediately – and expect a lasting, positive outcome."

Leave immediately? Does Max know what year it is? But maybe he could ask Bill Kristol the same question. Kristol and Kaplan argued for the war thus:

As other countries' forces arrive, and as Iraq rebuilds its economy and political system, that [75,000] force could probably be drawn down to several thousand soldiers after a year or two.

Several thousand after a year or two. We are now in year six with 150,000 still there. You'd think that people who had made such confident predictions might show a little humility at this point. But let me remind Boot that there was no mention before the war that we were there to secure oil supplies as he now argues.

In fact, that very idea was regarded as a left-wing smear. Nor were we told that we would invade and occupy a country indefinitely in order to "protect our interests" in the region. We were told there was a terrible threat to our security; and this was untrue. And then we were told that leaving would be a terrible threat to our security. And now we are told that a commitment to leaving by 2011 would be a threat to our security. It is not unreasonable for people to ask when the neocons will ever feel it is safe to leave - or if leaving was ever their intention in the first place.

Look: the good news is that for reasons I didn't see, Iraq is now in a much better place than almost anyone foresaw a year ago. The better news is that even those of us who have argued about this for years can now agree that we have a better chance of getting out now without catastrophe than we did at any time in the past five years. No one wants to foment chaos there. And extricating will be tricky and require pragmatism. But I do not think I'm being unreasonable or reckless in hoping that we can finally bring closure to this debacle after eight years at a cost of up to $3 trillion, hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths, and approaching 5,000 dead Americans and tens of thousands of Americans severely injured for life. If that is "leaving immediately", or a "precipitous withdrawal", then heaven knows what Max Boot thinks is empire.