Bayh: find realistic way to define success, then set benchmarks
Edwards: was "wrong". Wants "significant" reduction of troops after elections early next year. He'd tie the proportion of troops withdrawn to benchmarks set for Iraqi soldier performance.
Biden: no withdrawals until political situation improves, but sees 100K troops back home by '07. Does not rule out more troops if necessary. Wants admin to come clean about targets for Iraqi troop training. More civillian staff in Iraq.
Clark: add civillian component; consider adding troops; adjust the mix on the ground; establish clear benchmarks for training
Clinton: No immed. withdrawal, no troop increase, set specific benchmarks for training Iraqi forces and make it clear to Iraq that the US's military committment is limited.
Feingold: 12/31/06 is a "target date" for troops to come home. But he's flexible.
Kerry: begin drawn down of 20K troops after elections in Dec and continue if successful.
Richardson: "It is now time for the military commanders to design a phased, definitive withdrawal plan."
Warner: No immed. withdrawal, no troop increase, set specific benchmarks for Iraqi forces. Eschews "debating the past."
To me, Richardson, Edwards, and Feingold make sense. Kerry almost makes sense but lacks a phase 2 of what's next. Here's my take on why Warner, Clark, Clinton, Biden, and Bayh are wrong.
They seem to assume that the situation is improving, and that we can measure that situation. As I see it we're now stuck in the middle of a civil war watching our troops die in the crossfire between the Jidists and the Islamists.
There is a school of thought relating to the War on Terror and now (after invading) in Iraq as well, that has been completely buried from the discussion. Neither liberals or conservatives seem willing to talk about the situation in this way.
Faisel Devji argues in "Landscapes of Jihad" that the Jihad is noticeably different than the Islamic Fundamentalist movements. And I suspect that what we see right now is those two factions, the fundamentalists, and the jihadists locked in a civil war in Iraq.
The fundamentalists have an agenda, they seek the creation of Islamic Republics arround the globe. They were the force behind the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and are the primary force behind the Shiite parties in Iraq. The jihadists can be thought of has followers of Osama Bin Laden. While both movements are global, they are global in different ways.
The jihad is a globalized force far more than the fundamentalists, as they have a presence in nearly every country of the world.
The Jihad is global not because it controls people places and circumstances over vast differences..., but for precisely the opposite reason: because it is too weak to participate in such politics of control (1).
Thus, Al Qaeda has no ability to create Islamic Republics accross the globe, they have no such capabilities. This lack of power derives from the personal nature of jihad where it lacks any political motive, and is seen as an ethical responsibility.
Unlike fundamentalism, Jihad is not concerned with political parties, revolutions or the founding of ideological states. For someone like Ayman al-Zawahiri, who comes from a fundamentalist background in the Muslim Brotherhood, struggles in particular countries are important for two reasons: because, like the Taliban's Afghanistan, they provide a base for jihad more generally, as well as for rousing Muslims internationally. In other words the particular sites of these struggles are themselves unimportant, their territories being subordinated to a larger and even metaphysical struggle for which they have become merely instrumental. Indeed by moving between Bosnia and Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq, the jihad displays its fundamental indifference to these territories rather than consolidating them into a single muslim geography. ...it is not one country or another that is important, but instead Islam itself as a global entity (28).
Now, onward to Jihad's personal nature. The essential idea being that Jihad ignores collective responsibility. It is based arround personal piety; the idea being that Jihad is a personal religious obligation for each individual to partake in.
The Jihad today disputes and even mocks the privlege given to authority in this juridicial tradition. For instance in this passage from Yahyah bin Ali al-Ghamdi's article "The yeears of deception",j from the ninth issue of the Saudi on-line magazine Voice of Jihad that claims to be the mouthpiece of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.Don’t you know that the clerics thave stated that Jihad becomes a personal duty if the enemy raids the land of the Muslims? According to those who disagree with this, a new formula should be put forth. That Jihad will become a personal duty when the enemy attacks the land of the Muslims-only if the enemy can be repelled and vanquished and only if the Muslim nation is completely prepared, and only if the ruler-and we don’t know who this ruler is-will permit it.The author’s purpose is clear: to wrest the jihad away from the juridical language of the state and make it a strictly individual duty that is more ethical than polical in nature. […] One implication of treating holy war as an individual ethical obligation, like prayer, is that it becomes spiritualized and finally puts the jihad beyond the pragmatism of political life (34).
Devji goes on to argue that this jihad ends up being primarily carried out against other Muslims. This is what I suspect is going on in Iraq, and we are simply observers stuck in the middle. There is a civil war between the jihadists who seek martyrdom and the fundamentalists who seek an Islamic State. Our dream of a liberal Democracy in Iraq is unreasonable then, the fundamentalists will inevitably gain control of the country, while the jihadists will undoubtedly continue their attacks. Coming back to where I began this, we cannot remain in Iraq “until the job is done” because that job will never be done. There is no support for a liberal democracy in that country. Perhaps stability can be obtained in the form of a fundamentalist government like that of Iran. But any plan must focus on getting troops out as soon as we can. It needs to either accept civil war or work towards some measure of stability as we withdraw. In this regard Bayh and Biden are not looking at the reality in Iraq. Both liberals and conservatives are stuck in this cold war attitude towards the jihad, and nobody seems to even acknowledge Devji’s argument of the apolitical jihadists movement. I don’t know if Devji is right, but it is a perspective that is missing from the current discussion and is to our detriment.