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November 09, 2007



Kahl and the strategic-reset approach are very similar. Kahl assumes a shift (under the Democrats) in American policy in the region as a whole, away from belligerence toward stability, and the strategic-reset people say there needs to be such a shift. But in both cases the discussion is purely technical not to say technocratic. Would the Democrats rein in Israel in its attack on Hamas and Gaza? Would they abandon belligerence with respect to Hizbullah and foster a Lebanese agreement that unites rather than divides that country? For these kinds of things to happen, you need to speak to the hearts and minds--of the American electorate, along with giving them some eaningful information. If you treat Mideast issues solely as technical issues to be explained only on the level of misleading jargon ("contain the fallout from intra-Palestinian fighting" when in fact the American administration had a considerable role in ginning up that intra-Palestinian fighting, etcetera etcetera)--these are approaches that do not augur well for any fundamental change.


Some questions:

In your first point, you say that the further presence of US troops in Anbar (and other majority-sunni areas) could well give the tribal shaykhs and other leaders reason to make common cause again with AQI. That's just playing with "what if's"! Please explain that further, since that is one of the key points on which the case of the "troops out PDQ" folks rest their arguments on.

In your fourth point, you remind us that the majority of attacks in Iraq are committed against US troops, and that most Iraqis approve of these. True, and the Iraqis are entirely justified: we are an occupying force. However, if we pull our troops out, as you argue AGAINST earlier in your post, exactly how much leverage will we still have in-country? As I understand it, nearly all of our relationships outside the green zone (and most within it) are founded on, if not conducted entirely by, soldiers. That is, that military presence is our primary means of interaction with power-holders.

Lastly, a wonderful analysis, but do you have suggestions for a way forward. As you say, there are no easy answers, but that said, what sorts of options and strategies do you see having potential. There may be problems, but how might this government and the one that wins next year go about surmounting them?

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