Friday, August 17, 2007

Iraq's destruction of all national sense of political proportion

Josh Marshall makes a great point about how the biggest strategic danger of the situation in Iraq is the way it is sucking all the oxygen out of discussions about all the myriad other global challenges facing the U.S.

What is not debatable however is that there is more going on in the world -- more opportunities and more threats -- than what happens in the few hundred mile radius around the ancient capital of Baghdad. There is, as we can see, Russia, which still has a few thousand nuclear warheads which could cause some serious headaches. There's China, a vast economic and potential military power that will bulk larger and larger in our lives over the course of this century. There's Pakistan, India, half a billion people to our south speaking Spanish and Portuguese. The list goes on and on....

In hotspots around the world, there's a vacuum, as the world sort of rushes past us. In many ways this is the greatest danger in Iraq, not that our future as a nation is at stake in staying (as the right would have it) or even that it's necessarily at stake in leaving but that our engagement with the country has fixed us with a dangerous national myopia which is letting many other problems fester unattended for going on a decade.

Josh could further have further pointed out that Iraq is distracting us not just from other overt political challenges, but also from the dangers associated with massive global financial imbalances, and from emerging threats ranging from climate change to engineered biohazards. The measure of Iraq's deformation of the national dialog is not so much that the GOP candidates are falling over themselves to see who can make the most blood-curdling cry for escalation, but rather that none of the leading candidates in either party seem to have much of any foreign policy beyond some position on the so-called GWOT. It's sad, really, how much the sense of policy and political proportion has dribbled away, like a dry wadi, into the Mesopotamian sands.

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