Constructive Agony?

Do you angry posters out there really think we ought to just leave Iraq at this point? Leaving without a strategy is at least as dumb as staying without a strategy.
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Am impressed by the number of long, thoughtful responses I received to my previous post. There have been more substantial responses than effortless, thoughtless ones, and that’s unusual in the blog world. Thank you for taking the time.

Some quick points to make:

1) It’s distressing to me that some of the posts are hostile to people in the US military. I grew up in “red” territory, in rural New Mexico, where lots of families have members over there, and when I'm back home and have a chance to meet today’s soldiers I am almost always impressed. This is empirical, as we say in the science trade, not theoretical. I have never been criticized by a soldier for not being a soldier myself. For the most part they have an amazing culture of service. They are often anti-Bush and/or antiwar. Even if you are an absolute pacifist, it’s worth meeting some of these people just to get a reality check. We should demonize leaders who lie, cheat, steal, and demand torture, but we shouldn’t demonize the vast majority of ordinary members of the military.

2) I realize the post was in part about my own experience, but ultimately whether I’m a good guy, a smart guy, an idiot, an evil guy, or whatever, is of utterly miniscule importance. Whether readers like my hair or not, at least you don’t have to worry about me running for office. To the angry posters: Keep your eyes on the ball. I’m neither your hero nor your villain, only your fellow citizen, human, partner, and well-meaning person with a different point of view. If you can’t talk to me constructively, how can you talk to America at large? You could think of me as an exercise machine for practicing civility with someone who doesn’t dismiss your position in the way that many, many people do in America.

3) I’m up for the project of impeachment, and in fact I think I was more aggressive in criticizing Bush specifically as an individual than were the many posters who are afraid I’m soft on him. Furthermore, I think I’m criticizing him in a way that can translate across some of the ideological divides in the country. Really, angry posters, we are allies in so many ways. Our differences are over the underlying details of the natures of our rages concerning the war. We shouldn’t take too much comfort from the recent wins in elections and poll results. There is a really tough political battle ahead within America. There might be enough rage to win congress and the presidency back on negative campaigning, and therefore there might be some utility in whipping up anger. My sense of America, however, is that a purely negative campaign strategy will not work. It’s not a question of tension between Clintonesque centrism and Leftier positions, but a challenge of being able to put forward positive ideas about what to do that escape Bush’s inevitability traps. So, what to do in Iraq?

4) The only important question is what to do. Do you angry posters out there really think we ought to just leave Iraq at this point? Seems dumb to me. Leaving without a strategy is at least as dumb as staying without a strategy. Can’t you see you are falling into Bush’s trap of false choices? Suggest what you think is a smarter policy! Let’s confront our collective responsibility. The problem is hard and every idea at this point will have flaws, but by talking, we all learn. Enough about me already, what about the future of US policy in Iraq?

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