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Whereupon I Again Expound On the Moral Turpitude of the Defeatist Appeasers Now in Power; their Absurd Disapprobation of the Noble Effort; and the Obloquy Heaped Therein

March 26, 2007

I know, I know, I’ve been, like, dead in my tracks for over a month. This is partly the result of a busy life and its responsibilites partly the desire to observe Lent (meaning to engage in spiritual reflection and introspection without thought to the shortcomings of others), and partly the result of fighting off blog-ennui and that political depression which causes me to shake my head, pray for the best and try not to worry about what would happen if certain people finally get their way.

It all began when I tried to examine Barack O’Bama’s war plan for some healthy war-winnin’ teeth. It continued as Congressman Murtha boasted of a slow-bleed strategy. I waited as the the House stamped its feet and demanded we get out soon- no matter what the situation on the ground. It’s cliché, but I just find this blather all so apalling. Even more, it’s absolutely non-sensical in so many ways. Except one I fear: could it be the Democrats have determined a failure in Iraq is not as bad as failing to regain the White House in ’08?

Wretchard nailed the politics of the Pelosi-type calls for withdrawl by next March:

The this proposal ostensibly “forces” the Iraqis to reform on pain of US withdrawal. But here’s the problem, the more punishment is inflicted in the form of withdrawal, the less leverage is available. With every American withdrawal, the power of the US to influence any government in Iraq diminishes proportionately making every subsequent demand for reform that much more toothless.

And later from the comments:

(T)he moment to force a change is at the moment of maximum leverage, that is to say now. Consider a shareholder in a corporation. If he cannot force the board to see things his way at his point of maximum ownership, then he is progressively less likely to succeed as he reduces his equity.

If you were pushing a car out of a rut, the ideal strategy would for all hands to push together. It doesn’t make sense to say, well if we can’t move it now, we’ll reduce the numbers each time we try again. If Pelosi really wants to create maximum pressure, she should craft a cliff function. That is, if you don’t shape up, we are all out tomorrow. And no asylum for anybody either. Then the pressure arrives all at once.

It’s bad enough (in terms of war strategy) that we have regular elections that can be affected by terrorists. I’m sure that’s in part what was happening in the build-up to the mid-terms: a surge of their own. Even worse would be advertising what time we are going to be leaving- permanently- no matter what the conditions on the ground. This war, more than anything else, is a test of will. The more we demonstrate a collective resolve to stay until the job is finished, the quicker this will be over. The President has said as much – over and over and over ad naseum – yet there are still those who fail not merely to understand this argument, but that the argument has even been made.

Think I’m crazy? Well consider this: President Bush, if nothing else, has always conveyed that he has the will to win. At great peril to his own popularity, and that of his party, he comitted quickly to a new strategy immediately after the elections, which is slowly taking form. Even so, that demonstration of will- and that is primarily what it has been so far as the military “surge” has only begun to be implemented- has had enormus political and military consequences already in Iraq, if not elsewhere.

The Weekly Standard agrees:

Let’s give congressional Democrats the benefit of the doubt: Assume some of them earnestly think they’re doing the right thing to insist on adding to the supplemental appropriation for the Iraq war benchmarks and timetables for withdrawal. Still, their own arguments–taken at face value–don’t hold up.

Democrats in Congress have made three superficially plausible claims: (1) Benchmarks and timetables will “incentivize” the Maliki government to take necessary steps it would prefer to avoid. (2) We can gradually withdraw over the next year so as to step out of sectarian conflict in Iraq while still remaining to fight al Qaeda. (3) Defeat in Iraq is inevitable, so our primary goal really has to be to get out of there. But the situation in Iraq is moving rapidly away from the assumptions underlying these propositions, and their falseness is easier to show with each passing day.

(1) The Iraqi government will not act responsibly unless the imminent departure of American forces compels it to do so. Those who sincerely believe this argument were horrified by the president’s decision in January to increase the American military presence in Iraq. It has now been more than ten weeks since that announcement–long enough to judge whether the Maliki government is more or less likely to behave well when U.S. support seems robust and reliable. <b>In fact, since January 11, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has permitted U.S. forces to sweep the major Shiite strongholds in Baghdad, including Sadr City, which he had ordered American troops away from during operations in 2006. He has allowed U.S. forces to capture and kill senior leaders of Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army–terrifying Sadr into fleeing to Iran. He fired the deputy health minister–one of Sadr’s close allies–and turned a deaf ear to Sadr’s complaints. He oversaw a clearing-out of
the Interior Ministry [10,000 people fired -.Ed], a Sadrist stronghold that was corrupting the Iraqi police. He has worked with coalition leaders to deploy all of the Iraqi Army units required by the Baghdad Security Plan. In perhaps the most dramatic move of all, Maliki visited Sunni sheikhs in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and formerly the base of al Qaeda fighters and other Sunni Arab insurgents against his government. The visit was made possible because Anbar’s sheikhs have turned against al Qaeda and are now reaching out to the government they had been fighting. Maliki is reaching back. U.S. strength has given him the confidence to take
all these important steps.

Read the whole thing. I dare you to dispute it.

Moreover, the Iraqi’s seem to be polling much more positive than Americans:

The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.

One in four Iraqis has had a family member murdered, says the poll by Opinion Research Business. In Baghdad, the capital, one in four has had a relative kidnapped and one in three said members of their family had fled abroad. But when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam, the dictator who was executed last December, or under Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, most replied that things were better for them today. Only 27% think there is a civil war in Iraq, compared with 61% who do not, according to the survey carried out last month. By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.

Even the Democrats believed not so long ago that timetables were a bad idea:

Speaking at the National Press Club in 2005, now-Majority Leader Harry Reid said this:

“As far as setting a timeline, as we learned in the Balkans, that’s not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don’t want us there, and it doesn’t work well to do that.”

Six months later, the now-Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, put it this way:

“A deadline for pulling out … will only encourage our enemies to wait us out.” He added it would be “a Lebanon in 1985 [sic]. And God knows where it goes from there.”

And three months later, the junior Senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said this: “I don’t believe it’s smart to set a date for withdrawal. I don’t think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.” (emphasis added)

The arguments made by these Democrats were based on a time-honored truth: setting a date certain for withdrawal, regardless of conditions on the ground and the trajectory of events, is exactly what our enemies want. Osama bin Laden said this: “Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars.” Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two leader of al Qaeda, said that Iraq “is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.” He also said, “the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals: The first stage: Expel the Americans from Iraq.”

As a general rule of military strategy, you don’t want to take steps that are the equivalent of sending a gift-wrapped package to your adversaries. That is precisely what a date certain for withdrawal would be. Once upon a time, leading Democrats believed this and therefore argued against it. Now they are arguing for it. I’ll leave it to others to ascertain why that might be the case.

I believe that many Democrats and anti-war types- especially the ones who comment here- are genuinely concerned about the loss of American life and the feaseability of our project in Iraq and elswhere. No need for accusations of being unpatriotic wussies etc. But there is a deafness, a kind of tin ear for strategy, that seems to keep them caught up in some nostalgia for the past, whether it is the 60’s, the 90’s or even September 10, 2001. It seems more emontionally based to me than anything else, but it does have it’s roots in a belief in what is fundamentally an adherence to a process– a process that is no longer available. I know I’m getting kind of ethereal here, but I’m trying to put my finger on a some kind of condition. Some have called it Bush Derangement Syndrome. What ever it is, it’s really hurting our prosecution of this war and it is making political dialogue extremely difficult. We’ve been talking over these issues for a few years now, and no more clarity seems to be forthcoming. I feel like I understand the opposing views stated here much better than mine are understood in return. I used to blame that on my poor writing, but now I suspect something else is in play.

I just don’t understand the logic of these timetable based plans. I understand the need to get out; the need to be tough with the Iraqi government even as we try to help them. I can even see how these calls for “redeplyoment” may have been useful for Bush in getting Malik to act sooner than later. Call it unintended consequences, but maybe in this case the threat of retreat is as powerful as the threat of force. Hopefully in both cases, you don’t have to use it. So I don’t really care what’s said on Capitol Hill right now as long as at the end of the day Gen. Petraeus – and the troops – get what they want and need.

The new stategy does seem to be having a good effect. For how long, it is anybody’s guess. But for those appalled at the outset, I think the time is coming soon to consider that this war is yet winnable, and it’s time we all get on the same page as to hasten it’s ending. No apologies required, just stop with the obloquy already.

P.S.: Defeatocrats! Cowards! Kung Pao Congress! Niggardly supporters of the Troops! Ok now I can sleep… take it away Timmy!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim C permalink
    March 27, 2007 1:40 pm

    Hee hee…

    A long post with lots of serious things in it…it deserves more time and thought than I have this second… (heading to Florida for a mobile conference) … But two questions:

    1. Can you explain more specifically about what process it is you are thinking of here:

    “It seems more emontionally based to me than anything else, but it does have it’s roots in a belief in what is fundamentally an adherence to a process- a process that is no longer available.”

    What process?

    And two:

    Did you ever finishing looking over Obama’s De-escalation Act? What did you think?

    http://obama.senate.gov/speech/070130-floor_statement_on_iraq_war_de-escalation_act_of_2007/index.html

    I thought that it was one of the best plans yet from either side…. And leaves flexibility SHOULD Iraq’s government live up to it’s side of the deal for forces to stay:

    “And if the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration itself, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have actually been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.”

  2. April 2, 2007 10:58 pm

    Tim- As I said at the beginning of the post ( I know it’s so long you could forget), I did try to look at O’Bamas plan. My take on it is pretty much summed up in Wretchard’s car analogy:

    If you were pushing a car out of a rut, the ideal strategy would for all hands to push together. It doesn’t make sense to say, well if we can’t move it now, we’ll reduce the numbers each time we try again.

    It’s just non-sensical to me. I don’t mean that as a slam. I just don’t get it. I don’t know how many times I can re-iterate the same thought. Even the link you provide above says basically this: “Of the Iraqi’s don’t really need us to help with security, we’ll stay. Otherwise, we’re out of there and that’s sad for them, but it’s not our problem.” What’s going to happen is we’re going to punish the weak government in place by letting it fall to the wolves. For all the concern expressed for dead Iraqi’s by you and Rob et al., you sure don’t seem concerned about what would happen if we left the Iraqis in just that position.

    Ironically, recent events have rendered our whole discussion almost obsolete. That’s the thing: the battlefield changes so quickly, our political debate so slowly. Do you not think that Maliki has been making good on promises to crack down on militias? To ferret out some of the more corrupt elements of his government?

    As to my “process” I was referring to: it was obviously a fairly transient idea I didn’t quite get hold of. I think there’s a wistfulness for the 9/10 era; for the smoothness of Bill Clinton; and the idea that we could go to the UN to solve our problems. At the heart of this wistfulness is a very sincere desire and belief in the process of dialogue to resolve all issues, much like counseling can help a bickering couple. We are so far beyond that now.

    I’m emphatically not saying that we should never negociate or deal with bad people that have only their own interests in mind. But it is important to correctly gague your adversary and the process he wants to engage you in. Dialogue can be productive, but it can also be used as a stalling tactic and a trap.

    Lastly I would just note that it was really so predictable and contemptible for Obama to use the rhetoric of escalation at this time. After a year of the Democrats trotting out Generals who said we needed more troops, it’s really awful I think to start using highly charged Vietnam language for finally following that advice. No strategic or military reason is really given for the need for “redeployment”; it’s simply offered as a given. What’s really being done is saying we’re going to give up because it’s too hard. For everyone that supported military action – and that’s a lot of people- to simply back away because of the inconvenience seems to me morally terrible. Even people like you who never supported the war need to come to terms with what happens if we leave and it actually gets worse. That seems to me to be the most plausible turn of events if we simply abandon a weak ally.

  3. Tim C. permalink
    April 6, 2007 6:43 pm

    Even the link you provide above says basically this:

    “Of the Iraqi’s don’t really need us to help with security, we’ll stay. Otherwise, we’re out of there and that’s sad for them, but it’s not our problem.”

    Barack really isn’t saying that:

    His plans metric on staying or leaving isn’t “if you need us to help with security…”

    it’s metric of staying or leaving is: “If you as a country make the core compromises with the shia and sunni and kurds you will need to in order to survive.”

    If you do, and you need us, we’ll stay.
    If you don’t we’re out.

    (because if you don’t make these changes you won’t survive as a country with our without us)

  4. April 10, 2007 10:40 pm

    Tim-
    Your resonse makes no sense to me!

    “If you keep fighting, we’ll leave. If you can broker some kind of peace deal, we’ll stay. Except then the war will be over, so we’ll leave because we’re not needed.”

    The bad people need to be killed so the good people can get on with their lives. From what I’ve read they’ve already in principle agreed to a lot of comprimises in their constitution. Now they need to stop innocent people from getting blown up.

    The most important ingreedient in this battle is will, not guns. And the political will in this country to see this mess through is at least as important as what goes on in Iraq. That’s why the antics of the Democrats have so upset me. I don’t fancy that it would be easy if we were all clearly committed to victory, but it would be easier.

    It’s going to be OK though because I don’t think that the Dems are realy going to pull the plug, just pretend enough to satisfy their base. And they might actually be scaring the Iraqis into some much needed action in the bargain.

  5. Tim C. permalink
    April 16, 2007 12:26 pm

    “If you keep fighting, we’ll leave. If you can broker some kind of peace deal, we’ll stay. Except then the war will be over, so we’ll leave because we’re not needed.”

    That is closer, but not right either to Obama’s plan. It isn’t complex:

    “If you the ruling Shia, don’t make the compromises you need to do with the Sunni and Kurds to survive as a nation…. 99% of which you have not done… then we’ll leave you to your choice. If you do make these hard compromises, and still need us to help keep order, we’ll stay.”

  6. April 17, 2007 10:08 am

    99%? Please. No need to exaggerate your case.

    I still see no real difference between “make the comprimises” and “broker a peace deal”. And for all you and the Democrats stated preference for a political solution, your party of choice has sure made it hard to make the case that we are prepared to stay to the finish. Part of the threat of force is that the threat must be credible. I posit that if our country’s leadership presented a united will in the face of the challenges in Iraq, things would be going easier. Not easy mind you, just easier. The political solution required is not just in Iraq.

    However I’ve also made the case that this sharply augmented rhetoric of defeat and retreat – which is the ugly truth behind Obamas policy couched in nicer terms- has actually helped the political situation by giving Bush more credibility to increase the Iraqi government’s motivation to really step up the pace because if they don’t we will be forced to leave by the Democrats. It’s not the political solution I was looking for but if it works I’ll take it.

    More importantly, there are many other points you have not addressed in this post. This debate on Obama seems somewhat moot given recent developments: moves towards reconciliation have begun to take place. Al Sadr has fled, his army splintering. Iraqis have begun to side with the Americans against al Queda. Etc.

    I’m not saying everything is peachy-keen, just that as usual, everything is in flux. The only thing certain is that Obama’s plan will increasingly have nothing to do with the realities on the ground.

    The Democrats spend much of 2006 trotting out Generals critical of the Bush administration. Primarily the said the problem was too few troops. This was repeated up until December, when the Dems decided to “stay the course” and oppose what ever the President was for. In changing their stance they have a) not made the case that more troops is now doomed to be innefectual and b) that leaving Iraq to become a failed state- for whatever reason- is a good policy choice for the US. They simply point out that they are in control of congress now and extrapolate that into defeat and reatreat without calling is such. There has been no real military reason given for their opposition to Gen. Petraeus’s plan- indeed they confirmed him, unanimously if I recall.

    What about the steps Maliki has indeed undertaken since the surge? I feel that you and the Democrats are completely ignoring them, sticking to the script as written back in January.

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