Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lawyers, Guns, & Money

I was gambling in Havana,
I took a little risk
Send lawyers, guns and money
Dad, get me out of this

—Warren Zevon, Lawyers, Guns, and Money

We’ve all seen films and television programs utilizing the standard Twilight Zone-like climactic device wherein the protagonist must convince people of some imminent but fantastical-sounding peril (“the aliens are coming”; “we’re being replaced by pod-people”; “the president is as foolish as he appears”; etc.). You know the hero, his desperate urgency making him look like a lunatic, is in trouble when the authorities start in with the soothing, condescending voices; you’ve probably thought to yourself, as I have: just keep your mouth shut, fool, can’t you see they’re going to lock you up?
Therefore, by benefit of the unique education in wildly improbable eventualities that TV and cinema have afforded us, we all know that if, say, you see a gremlin on the wing of your passenger jet, it’s better to try to calm yourself, close the shade and order a double scotch. Sometimes all you can do is hold on tight or discreetly get out of the way.
So it is with this in mind that I quietly pack some essential belongings into the truck, put in a Spanish language-immersion tape (hola, senior Martinez; hoy es lunes, manana es martes; si muy bien; two days of this and I expect to have an accent like Ricardo Montalban), and merge onto the five freeway southbound one last time. I should have done this sooner.

Never again will I try to convince you that the war in Iraq not only had nothing to do with terrorism or WMD, but that our “leadership,” such as they are, knew this from the start. I will no longer make the assertion that the forcible “liberation” of the Middle East is a means to an end; not of defending America, but of keeping America uniquely dominant in the world. There is a difference, even if the neoconservative “intellectuals” insist no.

It is a very odd world indeed when, among a range of possibilities, that which makes the most sense is treated as conspiracy fantasy.
In an inversion of this Twilight Zone cliché ours is a helter-skelter reality where the absurd is obvious and the obvious absurd:
“what’s that you say? We invaded the nation with the third largest oil reserves in the world, secured its Oil Ministry while all about it was looted and burned, began construction of massive, permanent military bases, locked in long-term, highly favorable oil contracts, attempted to install a criminal expatriate of our own with no domestic support as president before allowing one man-one vote elections only after being pressured by massive street demonstrations not to satisfy the natural yearning for freedom that exists in every Muslim breast and upon which our own existence depends? Now, now—of course we believe you—the doctor is just going to give you a little something to calm you down
Offered for your consideration, in my best Rod Serling voice.

I think the confusion really began when we did away with the Department of War; creating a “Department of Defense” can only lead to Orwellian double-think, if that wasn’t the intention from the start.
But this isn’t what I came to say.

Many years from now, when the lasting consequences of the Iraq war reveal themselves and the fanciful, obscuring rhetoric has calmed like the dust of a volcanic explosion settling to reveal the new contours of the landscape; when we ask, yet again, how could this have happened, we may be appalled to conclude that it was largely the climax of an epic family drama.
We’ll have to gradually introduce this idea; we can’t all at once disillusion ourselves about just how corrupt our political process is and how the vanity of men, some of them remarkably small and petty, can influence the course of our great nation.

At the moment it is necessary that we assume the might of the United States can’t be leveraged by the egomania of a resentful son; this isn’t Shakespeare, and Freud lost relevance long ago. But never has a family drama of vanity, pride, and filial resentment played itself out on so grand and tragic a scale, as is happening right now before our eyes. It’s a fascinating spectacle, if we cannot yet allow ourselves to look at it full on.

The American republic's is a powerful chief executive, growing alarmingly more powerful still, even as the current officeholder flounders and smashes all about him with his current measure of privilege. One has to wonder how much value Dick Cheney expects to draw from his hard-won imperial presidency (that he could only enjoy by proxy through the second-rate son of a old rival—how it must grate) before handing it off to who knows (perhaps to the transparently egomaniacal John McCain—things could get more interesting still).

Before his surreal elevation to the highest office in the world, George W. Bush had played two very different, one dimensional roles for various interests both political and commercial, that of the affable front man and that of the back-room bully.
In the past George W. Bush lent the name his father cultivated to commercial concerns eager to access influence. He enjoyed his role as front man and disdained details and operation; this is a fair description of his presidency. We all know he once headed a failed oil company; we all know it wasn’t his fault it failed because he wasn’t much involved in its operation. When the end came he dutifully invoked his privileged background, drew what favorable terms that entitled, and was bailed out by his father. The music stopped, and most of the investors were without chairs, but the name, the brand, Bush was mostly shielded from dishonor.
I have to wonder how it felt when it was made clear to him that he wouldn’t surpass his father in business.

Donald Rumsfeld's long overdue ouster and (pending) replacement by perennial insider, possible Iran-Contra conspirator, avowed realist, and alleged intelligence fixer Robert Gates, and the staged intervention of Bush Sr's friend and associate James Baker, is billed as the end of neocon misrule, the surrendering of an incompetently led command.
It is largely theatre (unless you really think that those who we should now turn to for guidance include Vernon Jordan and Leon Panetta); the Iraq Study Group is a Greek chorus to segue our hapless leadership through the costume change from military fatigues to statesmen’s robes. Calling it a “study group” is mildly amusing; once again W. pays someone else to do his homework, and tardily.

The I.S.G. is in reality tasked with fashioning a pretext and political cover for the hasty retreat now made necessary by our absolute failure in Iraq, a failure that was long ago determined; they are crafting the narrative for an exit that was shamelessly put off until now for political considerations. Baker, close friend of the father, is here to bail out the son.

(Baker, you may recall, served as discreet mouthpiece for the former President Bush, voicing concern over W's impending crusade errant in Iraq. Bush the Younger once infamously made a point of publicly dismissing the rare advantage afforded him by being the son of the only other president to make war with Iraq by brandishing his sanctimonious and imaginary close relationship with a "higher father." We embarrass our children from adolescence to adulthood in return for the embarrassment they caused us as children; but some children never stop embarrassing their parents. Some come to do it out of spite.)

The question remains if the son, abetted by the now isolated Cheney, resentful and desperate as his own megalomaniacal hour nears midnight, will attempt one last act of petulant defiance by publicly spurning the discrete offer of a lessened humiliation.

Some are already attempting to redefine success. “We got Saddam” is destined to become an ironic chestnut along the lines of “it only hurts when I laugh.” There isn’t a serious minded person left who doesn’t secretly wish we could put him right back, not in his spider hole but in the presidential palace. If only we could take a mulligan.
But there is no success to be rescued. There are no shining paths of glory before us; just darkened, uncertain escape routes.

Now that there are no more political advantages to seek or defeats to guard against, and G.W. Bush, the draft horse of grander designs he only dimly understands, has ferried his last load, this administration begins the belated process of determining the least costly means of extrication. It is a salvage operation described as a "change of course."
In Korea, when outnumbered Marines had to fight their way out of the Chosin Reservoir, Major General O.P. Smith, commander of the 1st Marine Division, refused to describe it as a retreat, insisting that we were merely "attacking in a different direction." But the ground was yielded. Bush will have to yield Iraq, finally, and that means the large sprawling military bases and favorable oil contracts that, predictably, were the first goals secured and are now the last to be relinquished.
Democracy in Iraq, on the other hand, was initially to be the installation of the exiled Ahmad Chalabi. Failing that it became provisional rule, stalling and trying to channel the elections before bowing to pressure from the (somehow) unaccounted for ambitions of the Shia clergy. Now it has collapsed into talk of partition, coup, and withdrawal. Still, some insist that any suggestion that the goal of installing democracy in Iraq was a ruse is wild-eyed conspiracy theory.

Rhetoric follows power; it provides a veneer of morality and necessity for the more base needs of the state.The neocon theory of worldwide democratic revolution was always cover for naked ambition taking advantage of public fear. A means to an end and a pretext for garrisoning the Middle East against the real threat to American power, Chinese and Russian designs for the world's energy market.
The most fervent media supporters of the Iraq War believed the lyrics they improvised from the sheet music provided by their cappelmeisters in power; they fell in love with the sound of their own voices and the fantasia they presented. But they were made into propagandists and fabricators, unwitting or not.The last to know defeat is at hand will be the hapless volunteers of the blogging brigades, now left behind to fight a rear-guard action for an army in full retreat. As the forces of reality and accountability descend and cut them to pieces, they will turn to find the king's elite guards have left the field.

Cheney remains at V.P. in all likelihood because he knows where the bodies are buried; he buried them. For all of Rumsfeld's crimes and connivance, his image in the public eye is more of an arrogant incompetent than a conspirator. His sacrificing attempts to strengthen the myth of "right war, wrong strategy." History will dispose of that nonsense, but for the moment, for the political establishment that includes the newly victorious and emboldened (but inconveniently complicit) Democrats, a fiction will do. A sort of historical placeholder; a non-defeat defeat.

As for Rumsfeld's departure and Cheney's unimaginable survival, in America we've not only come to expect dishonesty, we admire it; losers we cannot abide. Another defect acquired by a history of triumphalist, moralist posturing; posturing in service of power that has accompanied every war, justified or not, we've engaged in.
The age-old rousing to battle of which neoconservatism is only a recent manifestation. Our experience with this rhetoric is older than the nation itself, emboldening wars of conquest over the Indian tribes while we were still colonies. Then it was land; now it is oil. Then it was our duty to bring Christian enlightenment to the benighted savages; now our duty is to free the "natural desire of every human being" for liberty. Those in need of our help are almost always in possession, or in the way, of something we need. That most of the neocons misunderstand their role in history only makes them more detestable.

The war is lost; it was lost from the start.Those who say we "won the war but lost the peace" have a very curious notion of peace. Has Iraq had a moment's peace since we invaded?

Yesterday's questioning of General Abazaid by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, a vehicle for McCain and Clinton to strut and preen as defenders of the same public will they took for granted until now, was just more theatre; providing second act character transformations for these competing leads designed to make us forget their duplicity. A plot point for the still unwritten third act that will attempt to make our hasty retreat from Iraq resemble victory.
The one question that needed to be asked I didn’t hear (but I may have missed; I can only endure these things piecemeal): General, is there a plan in place for withdrawal?

Still concealed from the public is that the withdrawal of over a hundred thousand troops and untold tonnage of equipment from a chaotically hostile environment is a problem of its own epic proportions. We are about to initiate a very uncertain and dangerous exit.

So two prominent senators bearing no small measure of responsibility are now allowed to pose as our skeptical saviors demanding competence from the administration; it is them we need to be saved from. That’s quite enough senators, thank you for your service.

In David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia there's a scene where Lawrence, the idealistic Englishman who organizes an Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I, has led a band of Bedouin fighters on a daring raid that requires first crossing the treacherous Nefud Desert. In the night one of Lawrence’s servants goes missing, but his camel remains; the boy apparently succumbed to sleep and fell from his mount. Separated from the group on foot, he is written off as dead. Lawrence insists on taking it upon himself to go back for the boy; Sherif Ali, the Bedouin leader already leery of Lawrence's ambitious plan, is furious. Lawrence will certainly die and jeapordize the entire force, he says, in a hopeless effort to save someone his own reckless ambition has already doomed.
The boy, the Sherif tells Lawrence:
"You have killed already."
President Bush, Senators McCain and Clinton:
Iraq you have killed already.

If only we could send them into the desert.

14 comments:

gcochran said...

"a problem of its own epic proportions. "

No: we can get everybody out with armor intact in three weeks.
And that's the right way to do it -all at once.

h-man said...

I agree with gcochran.

Futhermore.."Iraq you have already killed". Hyperbole and more importantly not true. The Arabs have f*cked up all on their own. The Kurds are still alive aren't they.

Don't ignore the impact of 9/11 for the desire to establish the precedent that belligerent Arabs or Muslims will run the risk of warfare with the USA, if they offer comfort or safe haven to "young turks". Time will tell if the precedent takes hold, but I think it's possible.

Dennis Dale said...

gcochran,
I concede the point. I'm making an assumption here based on the sheer size of our force. What I hope the senators were asking the General yesterday when they went into closed-door session (and the benefit to be drawn from posturing was removed) are the truly relevant questions such as: what plans have you in place for an immediate withdrawal if one is ordered?

Again we see how political considerations drive policy; it seems now we're trying to avoid the "last helicopter out of Vietnam" images, which in this war could be several, lurid, and posted all over YouTube.
Imagine that shot of the Huey evacuating the U.S. embassy in Saigon with a gaggle of ragged Iraqi malcontents in the foreground pumping their AKs in the air chanting "Allahuakbar."

h-man,
I'm not sure what you're saying here; if it's that we've demonstrated our might to Arab nations, that was wholly unnecessary in that there weren't any Arab nations left after the fall of the Taliban that were both hostile to us and allied, even in the loosest fashion, with the Jihadists (al Qaeda, etc.)
Routing the Taliban was all the message we needed to send regarding harboring terrorists, a message immediately undermined by the demonstration of our weaknesses in Iraq, where we have created not only haven, but the terrorist equivalent of the Spanish Civil War, bringing together personnel and money for the terrorist cause. Tactics innovated in Iraq are already appearing in Afghanistan. When will radicalized young Muslims start appearing elsewhere?

As for Iraq having been "killed", my point is the damage in Iraq is done; there'll be no reversing it.

add: That is, the damage we've done, and that we are not in a position to correct. At this point our continuing presence only magnifies our error by prolonging the mayhem. Time to get out, post haste.

The use of the metaphor "killed" is not hyperbolic; we destroyed a nation, after all. You may argue all you want about the justice of our actions, but the nation that existed before we invaded is in fact dead as a doornail. The fact that this entailed the (continuing) deaths of untold thousands makes a less damning phrase euphemistic.

Rick Darby said...

Dennis,

I agree with some bits of this but it's really over the top. Have you been hired by the Times as Maureen Dowd's understudy?

Actually your style here reminds me most of Lewis Lapham, Harper's magazine's resident intellectual on laughing gas. The exaggerations, the wild analogies, the generalizations piled on top of generalizations are similar.

You're a bright guy and you write some very good stuff when you're anchored to windward — I linked to you favorably just the other day. A word to the wise, what?

Dennis Dale said...

I apologize (half-heartedly) to any who link to a particular post here only to discover later, to their dismay, something such as this, that they want no association with. But, if your readers don't understand, remember what mom used to say, "they really weren't your friends anyway." At least that's what moms used to say in my day. Nowadays I suspect Mom's more likely to run off to Vegas with one of your erstwhile friends.

The comparison to Dowd is really uncalled for. Let's not say things we can't take back.
I have noticed the similarity to Lapham’s style, and the era of GWB has me tracking him ideologically (I suspect). This has caused me some unease (the former that is). Give the man his due; I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet his take on the war prior to the invasion was prescient in comparison to, say, Hugh Hewitt or Victor Davis Hanson (may their names never again darken this blog).
I recall, pre-invasion, Edward Said pointing out the absurdity of a direct attack on the U.S. by Iraq (and people were suggesting this, recall). I have always rejected his “orientalism” thesis, I cringe every time I hear some say “speak truth to power” (what is wrong with simply "speak truth," after all?). Did this make him wrong? More importantly, why was this obvious (even then) point given so little room? How many of those pro-war types are you holding to account now? When you’re right you’re right, and I’m sure a lot of conservatives you admire were dead wrong about the war’s consequences (leaving aside the question of its justice); at what point are you going to hold them accountable?

Have you no ire left over after fretting about Lapham and humble me for the intemperance of our denunciations? None for those whose actions and words contributed to this disaster? Consider how much leeway you give them for, in your estimation, being more patriotic. Just when do consequences take precedence over sentiment?

What you see here is a neophyte trying to fashion his own style while simultaneously trying to gain a clearer appraisal of reality. I had no idea it would be both this hard and this addictive. But inquiry is like baseball, you've got to run down every fly ball (may this be the last baseball metaphor used here).

Writing about these issues expands and alters my understanding of them. When the war started I was a relatively conservative guy who felt ambivalent about it; I now recognize that my ambivalence was a vague and unexamined mistrust of our leaders and their methods, extremely well placed, if unfortunately inert. I shudder to think of the tepid commentary I might have offered if I had been blogging at the time. Iraq was a threat? We should be embarrassed.

There is some overstatement in this post, but not much. I hope to develop a pair of separate voices; sometimes letting it go a bit, like here, to enliven the reader and sweep him along with less concern for precision. That's easy, of course, and much more fun (I think to read as well as write). But I'd also like to assume another voice at times, more rigorous and precise, relying less on generalization and metaphor. This is harder.
But I stand by everything written here. My dilemma is what I’ve come to believe I find distasteful. If you find yourself convinced of something that seems outlandish, speak out anyway. Easy for me to say, I don't get paid for doing this, like others. Therein perhaps lies the problem.

The name Untethered was a lark, like the blog itself (I clicked the Blogger button out of curiosity one day; I didn't really understand what a blog was before that (I wasn’t even always aware if what I was reading at the moment was a blog); I assumed it was more involved and required some sort of human contact and effort to make happen [two things I try to avoid]).
But the experience has been enlightening and the name more apt than I could have known; the further I progress in this process of examination the more unattached I become to ideology, faction, or party. Good riddance, I'm beginning to suspect.

Our unique historic moment calls for nothing so much as a jettisoning of ideology and party loyalty. I have to say I can't remember caring any less about the particular fate of the Republicans or Democrats as such, or for the fate of conservatism or liberalism. These terms are periodically emptied of and freighted down with new meaning. It all really boils to expedience. People grow impatient with law and principle, so they take advantage.

I suspect what bothers you is when I assert that in the past America has used its power unwisely or unfairly. Is this really such an outrageous assertion? Have we no ability left to live with the contradictions inherent in being a great power? Why is the idea that we must remain the most powerful nation on earth sacrosanct? More to the point: how much more evidence will it require to convince you that the invasion of Iraq was completely unnecessary?

The tendency is to let the victors write history, and we have been historically victorious. The use the lady’s phrase in a manner she no doubt would disapprove of: let’s not go wobbly now.
I hope to have something more substantial on all of this soon.


We have become entangled in a disastrous and wholly unnecessary war in no small part because people were afraid of being associated with the wrong crowd.
I think a lot, if not most, people outside of the Beltway who support GWB's nutty policies do so out of party/ideological loyalty, with little real thought. If not for Limbaugh and O'Reilly (themselves hopelessly oblivious to their manipulation at the hands of others; Limbaugh’s recent comments about “carrying water” were laughable; did it occur to the man for a moment how damning this admission was, to basically acknowledge that he’s been a shill?) blindly supporting Bush many folks would have defected long ago. Here's what I think: the war, if proposed by a Dem pres. could just as easily roused the usual "conservative" suspects in opposition, had such orders come down from party central.

Let's make it a discourse of principle and ideas, not of men.

I envision a future politics where people more often coalesce temporarily around a common cause understanding they will later, even simultaneously, be in opposition elsewhere; immigration is one such issue on which right/left of one interest should be united against the right/left of another, if that makes any sense.

We're letting the bastards get away with things because Dems don't want to be associated with Pat Buchanan and Reps think Noam Chomsky is the Candyman.

Have you ever met a single person in your life who shared your slate of opinions down the line? Why would you want to? Why are we married to a two party system that produces such perversities as the alliance of social conservatives with imperialists (yeah, I said it) on one hand and labor unions with racial resentment brokers on the other? Maybe we the people could smash some of these destructive factions if we started refusing to play along.

Rick Darby said...

Dennis,

I did not mean to be insulting and I hope you didn't take it that way. I read your blog regularly, and believe me, with the limited time at my disposal I try hard not to waste it. I wouldn't bother commenting if you weren't someone I respect.

If you ever check out my blog, Reflecting Light, you will have no doubt that I despise George W. Bush for (among other things) his stupidity in foreign affairs (see Iraq) and his determination for some demented reason to turn the United States into a hispanic Third World country. I consider myself an old-style conservative, not a Republican.

Nonetheless, the style of this posting is not worthy of you. You make a point in your bionote of not being academic or "respected in any field," but you can write very well when you are in a self-disciplined mood. I just want to encourage you to be in that mood when you post.

Dennis Dale said...

No offense taken or intended. I appreciate the fine work you do at Reflecting Light, particularly on the immigration issue. I should have explicitly directed my sprawling rant at the defenders of Bush specifically.
The offense at being compared to Dowd was humorously feigned (though the part about Lapham was earnest).

h-man said...

"The use of the metaphor "killed" is not hyperbolic; we destroyed a nation"

Why would the "death of Iraq" (a political entity) be of concern, anymore than the death of Babylon? It wasn't great shakes to begin with.

"message immediately undermined by the demonstration of our weaknesses"

Nothing occurring in Iraq weakness or otherwise undermines the policy, that a regime must make "good faith effort" to control terrorist operating outside of their borders or the US will exercise their "option" to change the regime. Quite frankly any other policy would be absurd. (it should be noted that prior to the Bush Admin, we apparently were willing to respect Afghan sovereignty with tragic results)

"the damage we've done"

Excuse me, why not place reponsibility on more proximate causes? Like the actual people doing the damage. Three factions making their own choices. I mentioned Kurds, because they have seen the regime change as an opportunity to create a more decent society. Given their recent history as executioners of Armenians and other terrorist/guerrilla activity, was it "inevitable" that they would cooperate with the US?

Anonymous said...

Dennis, maybe you should raise some rewritten version of your 12:28 post up to the main page. I think the current crumbling of traditional ideologies, dating back to the 19th century, is a pretty important phenomenon. Some establishment types are starting to timidly comment about this, see Jacob Weisberg's latest piece in Slate.

H-man said:

"Why would the "death of Iraq" (a political entity) be of concern, anymore than the death of Babylon? It wasn't great shakes to begin with."

The death of political entities is important because the human race is not made up of atomized individuals, but of collectivities that organize themselves to a large degree as nation-states. When those organizations fail completely, the ordinary people within them suffer greatly. This is true even when the nation-states were "no great shakes" or even when they were tyrannies. As the proverb says, "better a thousand years of tyranny than one day of anarchy", and we are seeing it demonstrated now.

The casual unconcern reflected in saying "the state of Iraq, who cares, no great shakes" is very American. Not to mention very reflective of the arrogant provincialism and naivete that went into the planning for the Iraq war, when our leaders clearly cared nothing for the fate of the ordinary people of Iraq.

MQ

Anonymous said...

And by the way, the lack of understanding or concern for collectivities and communities is something that links together the arrogance of our elites on disparate issues like immigration and foreign policy.

MQ

h-man said...

MQ
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the minority Sunni/Baathist ruled over the majority Shi'a (and of course the Kurds). These are the "ordinary people" you refer to. It was necessary for the Iraqi nation state to fail, in order to create a nation-state they found more appropriate. So measured in your own terms the failure of "Iraq" is a good thing. My "casual unconcern" is better than your "casual unconcern". Mine is directed at lines on a map. Yours to "ordinary people".

"lack of understanding or concern for collectivities and communities"

Educate me. The first lesson has not gone well.

Anonymous said...

OK. Dying is bad. Being wounded or sick is bad. Having members of your family die is bad. Not being able to leave your house because people are regularly being shot on the street around you is bad. Not having electricity supply for your air conditioner in 110 degree heat is bad. "Bad" in this case means things that ordinary people, in general, do not like to have happen to them. There is incontrovertible proof that because of our invasion of Iraq and the resulting total breakdown of civil order, all of these bad things are happening to many, many more ordinary people than they were happening to before our invasion. Simple enough for you yet?

MQ

h-man said...

MQ

I will grant all of your facts. The original post by Dennis and your followup were an attempt to blame (place moral responsibility) on George Bush for the
deprivations suffered by the Shi'a, Kurd, and Sunnis. I stated that the people to blame are the people causing the death and destruction. Primarily I think that is the Sunni/baathist insurgents. It is true that blame can shift if there is an over-reaction to that violence or if the US encourages such violence. That is not the case now.

Also you implied in your comment that nations are "collectivities that organize themselves" as such. In other words they should have a right of self- determination. I'm merely stating that the majority Shi'a/Kurds were denied that opportunity. You and Dennis can fret and worry yourself about the practical results of Bush's decision to enforce the provisions of the 1991 ceasefire, but I'm more concerned with whether we've acted honorably.

Bill said...

"I envision a future politics where people more often coalesce temporarily around a common cause understanding they will later, even simultaneously, be in opposition elsewhere; immigration is one such issue on which right/left of one interest should be united against the right/left of another, if that makes any sense."

That makes perfect sense to me, Dennis. I don't know whether I am left or right anymore, but I do know that both the "left" and "right" seem to love teaming up to screw us.

As for gcochran's assertion that we could get troops and equipment out in three weeks, I think that's technically possible but first we've got to cut a deal with one or another faction, which will take some time. Otherwise we will lose a lot of equipment, if not troops (although we could lose a number of them too). So the real impediment to withdrawal is political, both at home and in Iraq.

I can see an arrangement with Shia leaders to refrain from molesting troops in a southward withdrawal toward Kuwait, but Iran will probably demand concessions for that, and I'm pretty sure there are folks in decision-making positions in the administration who will absolutely resist any concessions for Iran, no matter what the consequences to our army.

I'm afraid there are powerful, vested interests in America who will resist pullout until the bitter end. And, unfortunately, I believe they have enough clout to keep us there for some time yet.