Count last night’s democratic presidential debate as one that finally asked a good question. The candidates were asked point blank if they could would be out of Iraq by 2013. In what may have been the greatest tease of all time all three major democratic candidates Edwards, Obama and Clinton said no.
This may indeed be the sensible position, most experts agree that a US pullout prior to having a stable government would likely be a bloodbath. It is always the presidential statesmen like position to hedge your bets and not commit to something you might regret afterwards (a la read my lips – no new taxes).
Still on this issue which has become the most divisive issue since the ‘Stalin-esqu’ Patriot act which democrats reviled, yet still voted for. Like the patriot act democrats have been teasing their base by pushing for “redeployment” and even with a majority in both houses very little has changed.
It is somewhat humorous to compare this issue to the other great wedge issue of our time the abortion debate. The Iraq debate is centering on two very impassioned yet polar opposite opinions on an issue with essentially very little changing over time. WIth all of the marches and all of the speeches essentially the reality on the ground with abortion has been unchanged since Roe v. Wade.
There have been minor issues involving parental notification, late term procedures, and funding squabbles but at the end of the day no adult female has been denied a procedure in generations. This doesn’t change the fact that even in every single judicial appointment, and nearly every election of any kind the subject comes up. This is always entertaining when the office is in question has no real power to overturn a supreme court decision.
With the democrats the issue of Iraq is a very complicated one they need to tell their base they want to pull out but if they do things could go very badly. If they stay in they risk losing their base over what they have helped make an unpopular war. What did the three leading candidates have to say about the single most important issue to their party?
“I think it’s hard to project four years from now,” said Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois in the opening moments of a campaign debate in the nation’s first primary state.
“It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting,” added Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
“I cannot make that commitment,” said former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
No comment essentially, I refuse to actually commit to anything – but I really don’t like it, Bush sucks – goodnight everyone. Bush is not running for office again and his stands on immigration would make it difficult to get the nomination in his own party if he were even eligible.
At the end of the day no matter how you feel about the Iraq situation leaving right now is probably the only decision that is messier than getting into the war in the first place. Colin Powell once made the very accurate analogy to this type of long term conflict called the pottery barn rule. Essentially if you break it you have to own it.Like it or not – Iraq is broken and we are responsible. There are still troops in Korea decades later and it is very likely we will have troops in Iraq through 2013. You heard it from Hillary Clinton last night.
It isn’t because they want to be there, they just realize the only thing worse than having troops there is the alternative. Iran would likely take over the fellow Shi’ite south and Turkey is already massing troops in the north based on their long standing issues with the Kurds there. Saudi Arabia has already pledged sending troops to protect the fellow Sunnis in the center of the country. A three state situation like the former Yugoslavia is the most likely comparison. There very different peoples simply retreated to their own areas and created separate smaller nations, but only after they cleaned out anyone who was on the wrong side of their border.
The biggest difference between Iraq and Yugoslavia is of course oil. Last night Edwards, Obama and Clinton begrudgingly admitted they were not willing to hand the south of Iraq over to the Iranians and what to see how much worse things would get without American soldiers there.
There would be a massive exodus of anyone who could afford to leave and tribes and militias on every street corner. And although we all hate oil all of his horrible side effects – the one thing that democrats and republicans both hate more is 5 dollar a gallon oil.
The cost of even a penny increase in gasoline is huge to the American consumer, Cameron Hanover analyst Peter Beutel wrote in a note to clients in early May. “Every penny increase in the price of gasoline costs American businesses and consumers $4 million” per day, he wrote.
The numbers are staggering, Beutel said in an interview. For the first 4½ months of 2007, higher gasoline prices cost the U.S. economy $1 billion more than the same period of 2006 — and a whopping $40 billion more than the first four months of 2002, Beutel said.
You might wonder how Iraq could wind up causing higher oil prices, their oil production is just a fraction of the world’s output.
During December 2002, the United States imported 11.3 million barrels of oil from Iraq. In comparison, imports from other major OPEC oil-producing countries during December 2002 included:
Saudi Arabia – 56.2 million barrels
Venezuela 20.2 million barrels
Nigeria 19.3 million barrels
Kuwait – 5.9 million barrels
Algeria – 1.2 million barrels
Aside from Venezuela which has become it’s own problem simply the possibility of instability in these neighboring countries would raise oil prices. With an economy running on trucks and cars to an extent that was not the case in the late 70’s when there was rationing of gasoline the effects would be politically disastrous.
It’s this prospect that gives pause to even Obama, possibly recounting Jimmy Carter. A one term president who watched himself lose re-election by a landslide the last time there was a worldwide disruption in the flow of oil. Like oil it seems Iraq is unpopular but without any practical alternatives for the foreseeable future.