Yesterday’s New York Times editorial, “The Road Home” went into print and internet yesterday: a single editorial, very long, with a number of strategies mentioned for troop withdrawal from Iraq.  Such calls have been fairly consistent now since before the war began, but the New York Times has given a mini-scenario worth considering, and for me bring up a number of reflections. 

Media Spin
It’s fairly fashionable to jump on the NYT for its liberal bias here in the States, but in fact their coverage of the war has been really good.  Those media units who have complained about this bias (Fox, Washington Times, etc)  haven’t matched the coverage, in extent, quality of thought, or depth.  NYT journalists like Sabrina Tavernise, who brought forward the early stories on Iraq refugees, Michael Gordon, who during this war has written Cobra II and continued to report and co-report with many excellent colleagues, both domestic and foreign; and so many others have defined this war not because they put spin into it, but because they worked on it.  So it should not surprise us that their editorials verbalize what many have increasingly begun to believe: this war is not in the best interest of anyone.  It should also not surprise us that such an editorial gives many of the drawbacks to a withdrawal and recommends certain steps and conduct in relation to it: the writers assigned to Iraq have been analyzing it carefully for us for a good long time.

The trend of opinion
Many U.S. citizens always been against this war, since before our entry in fact.  We peaceniks, however, have not all been against every aspect of the war.  For one thing, once in, it did seem like a good idea to stop the harm of it from spreading by supplying order and stability once again.  It was possible, unlike many polarizing news stories portrayed, for one to be against this war and not be against an immediate pullout.  It was also possible to be anti-war and also anti-terrorist; anti-Saddam Hussein; and anti-WMD.  The simplification of position in many news articles and particularly the rhetoric of the White House has been an insult to many a thoughtful citizen when it comes to this war.  So, quite frankly, have been the conduct of some anti-war speechifiers, including the clearly-unhinged Cindy Sheehan, who camped miserably outside Bush’s ranch, who is planning to run for political office, and whose life beyond the news camera is probably a horror of unresolved grief and self-deception.  We should have compassion for her, but she speaks for no one I know.  

The change in public opinion is related, if one is to believe what one hears, in our lack of success, in our mounting deaths, and in the war’s cost.  But I don’t think it is that simple: all approval in politics is contingent, and levels of commitment to government actions are rightly tempered by degree.  To believe absolutely in a political solution or a military action without reservation is not an act of patriotism, but one of jingoism.  Absolute obedience and loyalty might characterize our military, but it is impossible to believe that they have parked their brains elsewhere.  Indeed, in the situation they are in, they need their every scrap of their intelligence to continue to operate.

And voters also need their intelligence in order to choose wisely.  Perhaps many of us are impatient with a lack of results.  Perhaps if there had been less dissent we could have been more effective.  Yet dissent is part of democracy: we have always had it, including during the first two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam; the first Gulf War.  Isolationism has always been a prominent strain in American History, exacerbated by our own Civil War, which ruined the lives of so many, even as it created the conditions of universal emancipation on the continent.  In that war too, we failed at reconstruction:

Finding solutions
The New York Times recommends a “candid and focussed” discussion of outcomes, especially the most bloody and most likely of these.  A candid and focussed discussion, quite frankly, would be quite welcome.  Many of its recommendations also appear to develop out of the Iraq Study Group report: engaging neighbors and strengthening them to contain violence, aid refugees, and seek solutions.  I hope that the U.S. Congress and the citizens who elected them will turn back to this document for ideas. 

This is just a bad business all around; and though many, including myself, were against going in, we are not against a reasonable method of pulling out, minimizing the damage of that pullout, and aiding those who must suffer through that most agonizing of military exercises: the strategic retreat.  There are a truckload of concerns we must address, from immigration of Iraqi sympathizers to VA hospitals to diplomatic and military engagements.  If a focussed and thoughtful effort is made in Congress, then it may be that the American people will at last be able to get behind something reasonable concerning the conduct of this war.

Further reading:
Iraq Study Group Report