Is "Smothers Brothers" Diplomacy the Way Out of Iraq? | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[Washington Babylon]

Is “Smothers Brothers” Diplomacy the Way Out of Iraq?


As the news goes from bad to worse in Iraq, some in Congress are looking for new ways to bring an end to the American occupation. I’ve learned today that a bipartisan group of House members—I was asked not to name names—is seeking to establish a commission that would quickly report back with recommendations leading to the withdrawal of American troops.

There are about 15 members involved in the group, but that number looks to be growing quickly. It wants to establish the commission quickly, so it can report back before General David Petraeus gives his scheduled review in September of the post-surge situation in Iraq. One option that the congressional group reportedly favors is the replacement of American troops in Iraq with forces from Egypt and from other Arab countries that receive substantial aid from the United States, such as Jordan and the Arab League. Whether these countries would agree to such a plan is an open question.

Meanwhile, there’s a rumor circulating in Baghdad and in some Washington circles that the CIA, in order to help the Bush Administration find a face-saving way to get out, is bribing Iraqi parliamentarians to vote for an end to the American troop presence. I have absolutely no reason to believe this is anything more than a rumor, but the very fact that it is being discussed indicates just how desperate the military (and political) situation is in Iraq.

I ran the bribery scenario past a former CIA official who closely follows affairs in Iraq. “The rumor mill in Baghdad is flooded with all kinds of wild stuff, including the comments you raised,” he told me. “The agency is pretty much out to lunch in Baghdad, so if there is any effort to contact parliamentarians it would ineffective. They simply do not have the reach, or depth of contacts to influence the Iraqi political system at any level. I think the plan is to go through the motions until September, and then pull out, blaming the Iraqis for the lack of progress and stability.”

Back in the early-1970s, when the war in Vietnam was hopelessly bogged down, Tommy and Dickey Smothers proposed during their Comedy Hour that the United States simply declare that it had won and pull out. It may come to pass that the Bush Administration turns to Smother Brothers diplomacy as a way to get out of Iraq.

More from