22/05: Common Sense

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
You have heard all this before. In fact, I have written all this before--but It is always nice to hear some plain sense from someone you don't expect.

Excerpts from Bob Kerrey's MUST READ op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today:

The U.S. led an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein because Iraq was rightly seen as a threat following Sept. 11, 2001. For two decades we had suffered attacks by radical Islamic groups but were lulled into a false sense of complacency because all previous attacks were "over there." It was our nation and our people who had been identified by Osama bin Laden as the "head of the snake." But suddenly Middle Eastern radicals had demonstrated extraordinary capacity to reach our shores.

As for Saddam, he had refused to comply with numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions outlining specific requirements related to disclosure of his weapons programs. He could have complied with the Security Council resolutions with the greatest of ease. He chose not to because he was stealing and extorting billions of dollars from the U.N. Oil for Food program.

No matter how incompetent the Bush administration and no matter how poorly they chose their words to describe themselves and their political opponents, Iraq was a larger national security risk after Sept. 11 than it was before. And no matter how much we might want to turn the clock back and either avoid the invasion itself or the blunders that followed, we cannot. The war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is over. What remains is a war to overthrow the government of Iraq.

Some who have been critical of this effort from the beginning have consistently based their opposition on their preference for a dictator we can control or contain at a much lower cost. From the start they said the price tag for creating an environment where democracy could take root in Iraq would be high. Those critics can go to sleep at night knowing they were right.

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes."

This does not mean that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11; he was not. Nor does it mean that the war to overthrow him was justified--though I believe it was. It only means that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq would hand Osama bin Laden a substantial psychological victory.

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq. If our purpose had been to substitute a dictator who was more cooperative and supportive of the West, these groups wouldn't have lasted a week.

The American people will need that consensus regardless of when, and under what circumstances, we withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq. We must not allow terrorist sanctuaries to develop any place on earth. Whether these fighters are finding refuge in Syria, Iran, Pakistan or elsewhere, we cannot afford diplomatic or political excuses to prevent us from using military force to eliminate them.

The article in its entirety here.
Watching Fox News Sunday this morning:

Chis Dodd: The American people are so far ahead of Washington on this issue. They want a change in policy, a change in direction (full transcript here).

Dodd is only half right. Not to belabor an old point, but there is no polling data that indicates that a majority of Americans want to lose the Battle for Iraq.

Here is what America really wants:

Substitute "progress" for change and insert "right" before direction, and I think you have it.

Americans desperately want progress in the right direction.

Americans want peace, freedom, and prosperity for Iraq and its citizenry.

Much more importantly, Americans want to stop thinking about Iraq. Americans want a cessation to the killing of American servicemen in Iraq.

But, to repeat, we the people are not actually calling for surrender, regional chaos, and Iranian hegemony, all of which would likely follow our retreat out of the Middle East.

An Aside: The Democrats in Washington and on the far left are united in their rhetoric that we must leave Iraq. President Bush and his supporters remain steadfast in their mantra that we must win the Battle of Iraq.

An Obvious Compromise Solution: win and leave.

Embedded in the hearts and minds of most Americans, at least on some level, is the realization that they we must mete out a defeat to the forces of Islamism in Iraq. If Islamic holy war against the West emerges victorious in this theater, American interests suffer a debilitating blow. American defeat will bring disastrous consequences.

The Democrats are playing a dangerous and destructive political game building their future on American failure in Iraq.

The Good News for George Bush, the Republican Party and the United States of America: all the President needs to do to save us all is win. Winning has always been the key; it still is. A win in Iraq saves the Bush legacy, the Republican Party, and America.

The Bad News: The President has known this equation for four years, and we are where we are.

28/03: What Mandate?

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The tag from an NPR story from yesterday:

"Still, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid insisted Democrats are simply carrying out a mandate they got at the polls from a war-weary nation. Democrats seem confident that in this fight, public opinion's on their side" (link here).

Some caveats: I am not sure if "mandate" was solely NPR correspondent David Welna's interpretation; there is no direct quote concerning a "mandate" in the story, and Reid has avoided "mandate" talk before. However, "mandate" is the buzz word of this particular debate.

Is there a public mandate to withdraw US troops from Iraq?

Public polling is mixed, although there are a number of polls that indicate Americans are increasingly exasperated with our progress in Iraq. As well they should be. But I am skeptical that the understandable grumbling and frustration in the heartland is actually hard support for "redeployment" (as John Murtha likes to call it).

Also: there is a lag time to public polling. The polls will be behind any change in public sentiment resulting from any successes that might occur as a result of the Petraeus-coordinated influx.

But by the same token, admittedly, this is a fluid situation. Bad news or a lack of progress increases the momentum of discontent. The vote yesterday in the Senate may indicate that Gordon Smith, Chuck Hegel and Ben Nelson read the aforementioned current polls as significant.

However, in terms of an electoral mandate from the November election, I suspect the Democrats are overplaying their hand.

Some things to remember:

1. While no one can doubt that the war played a role in Democratic gains, arguably, the Republicans lost only one Senate seat directly as a result of Iraq: Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.

a. George Allen in Virginia shot himself in the foot--and then succumbed to a ferocious media campaign against him, in which the Washington Post trumpeted charges of racial violence against him, which as of today still remain uncorroborated. Even so, Allen lost by a whisker.

b. Jim Talent lost Missouri, always a close state, on a myriad of issues, including Michael J. Fox and stem cell politics.

c. The GOP lost Ohio and Montana as a result of scandals unconnected to Iraq.

d. The GOP held Arizona and Tennessee against serious antiwar opposition and ran very close in Democratic strongholds, NJ and Maryland.

2. The GOP lost the House as much as a result of pent-up conservative nausea as antiwar outrage. Mark Foley was the straw that broke the camel's back.

3. In fact, if there was a bell weather race in terms of the war, I would argue that it was Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman rebounded from a devastating attack on his war position to win the general election with enormous bipartisan support in a very Blue state.

4. One more thing, read this post from a few days ago concerning Texas 17 Representative Chet Edwards and the way he characterized his vote to set a timetable for withdrawal--and then tell me if Congressman Edwards thinks he was fulfilling a mandate from his voters.

Mandate? If given the choice, Americans prefer winning this war to losing it.

09/03: Must See TV

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I will be away from the blog for most of the day, but I am currently watching C-SPAN's Washington Journal (3-9-07). The Pam Hess segment is the most remarkable piece of reportage and analysis I have seen in years. The archive will be up later today. Watch this segment, if at all possible.

02/03: What If ?

From the Washington Post:

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey resigned today amid a burgeoning scandal over the treatment of wounded outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and President Bush ordered a "comprehensive review" of care for the nation's war wounded, as the administration sought to deal with growing anger in Congress and among the public over the issue.

A visibly angry Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the resignation in a brief statement this afternoon, saying he was "disappointed" by the Army's response to disclosures of inadequate outpatient care at Walter Reed and bureaucratic inertia in dealing with wounded soldiers
(full story here).

Wow! I had forgotten what a swift and decisive response looked like. Well done, Secretary Gates.

Historians and Presidents cannot afford the indulgence of the counter-factual questions of life; the what-ifs. Having said that, it all makes one wonder what things would be like today, if Gates had been running the war since Day One.

I like and admire George Bush. Perhaps because I am more flawed than most, I have a large degree of patience for the President's shortcomings. I cannot help but see him as a nice guy with a good heart and the best of intentions. One of his most endearing faults may be his obstinate loyalty to team.

There are those who tell the story of the young George Bush, at the helm of one of his doomed energy ventures, holed up in his office making calls to ensure that every one of his employees found a safe landing place as the company disintegrated, even down to the janitor. I don't know if that story is true, but it is in keeping with what people who know George Bush the best say about him when there are no cameras running.

However, that brand of admirable stubbornness is not always indicative of the traits needed to run a large corporation or the United States of America. Sometimes you need to be a cold-hearted SOB. Sometimes you need to discipline or discharge loyal subordinates in order to protect the larger interest of the enterprise and the long-term security of those involved.

In that way, Robert Gates is a breath of fresh air.
I intend to post on the debate ASAP--but since the debate thus far is merely recycling old rhetoric, here are a couple of rebuttals remixed and reprised:

One more time, here are the reasons that going into Iraq made sense at the time:

1. Saddam was bad. He deserved ouster, capture, trial and execution. Twenty-five million Iraqis deserved an opportunity to take control of their lives free of Saddam's oppressive regime.

2. Saddam was at war with the United States and a threat to regional security. For more than a decade, we flew combat missions over Iraq and drew anti-aircraft fire everyday. Our forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia to neutralize the threat Saddam posed to the region. Our presence in Saudi (part of our essential commitment to preserving the peace) irritated the international Muslim community. In fact, Osama bin Laden cited our presence in Saudi Arabia as the casus belli for war against America in general and 9-11 specifically.

3. Saddam was contained--but only as a result of the costly military commitments cited above. In addition, Saddam was contained as a result of a United Nations sanctions regime. Before the war, several human rights organizations charged that the heartless US-driven sanctions policy had killed upwards of 500,000 Iraqis through malnutrition and lack of adequate medical attention. Later, we learned of massive corruption on the part of the UN in administering the sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Moreover, by 2002, the flagging resolve of the French and other European powers threatened the entire sanctions program. Containment was a leaky policy taking on more water every day.

4. Saddam unbound meant a return to the status quo ante bellum in which he had threatened his neighbors and worked assiduously to manufacture and deploy weapons of mass destruction.

5. Saddam and 911. It is a long held article of faith in the mainstream media that "911 and Iraq were not connected." This is nonsense. What they mean to say is that Saddam and his regime were not complicit in the terrorist attacks of 911. Those two statements are not the same. Conflation of these two distinct ideas belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the task that confronts us.

» Read More

Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We should be thankful that the Democrats won in November. Seriously.

Accountability in life is everything. Self regulation is the most dangerous of all human delusions.

The political grandstanders in the Senate and House are making fools of themselves pushing for a non-binding resolution to embarrass the President and court favor with the uninformed, nevertheless, the essential process of oversight is finally grinding into gear.

For almost four years, the Bush administration, literally and figuratively, threw good money after bad in Iraq. The November election was the wake-up call they desperately needed. The day after the election, the President tapped soft-spoken but tough-minded Robert Gates to take the reins of the stalled war effort. With Congress breathing down his neck, the President is dispatching David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker to the scene with orders to make immediate progress or else. Both of these men are unorthodox thinkers who criticized privately through proper channels many of the group-think Iraq policies that ultimately failed. They are our best chance at staving off an epoch-ending humiliation.

So many of us love the Civil War analogy. Of course, the tragically non-analogous portion of the comparison is that Lincoln ferociously prosecuted the war from the beginning, challenging and firing his subordinates until he found an Edwin Stanton and U.S. Grant relatively early on. We have waited four years for this change.

In a nutshell: Congressional oversight is necessary to win; Congressional posturing and purely political maneuvering is lethal. Congress needs to ask tough questions, hold feet to the fire, but they also need to commit to winning regardless of the potential for partisan or individual political gain.
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
This excerpt from Pat Buchanan's latest requiem for our Iraq policy is no surprise in terms of theme or tone, but the unvarnished assessment is nevertheless jarring in its logic and ring of inescapable impending doom:

"Even should the surge succeed for a time, it may only push the inevitable into another year.

"And consider what it is we are asking Maliki to do.

"We want him to use Sunni and Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army, in concert with the U.S. Army, to smash the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most popular Shia leader in the country and the principal political support of Maliki. We are asking Maliki to turn on his ruthless Shia patron and bet his future on an America whose people want all U.S. troops home, the earlier the better.

"For Maliki to implement fully the U.S. conditions would make him a mortal enemy of Moqtada and millions of Shia, and possibly result in his assassination. Whatever legacy Bush faces, he is not staring down a gun barrel at that.

"The truth: There is only one U.S. policy guaranteed to work if we are resolved to keep Iraq in the U.S. camp. That is to send an army of 500,000 to 750,000 U.S. troops into Iraq for an indefinite period, to pacify Baghdad, retake and hold Anbar and secure the borders against jihadis. Even that kind of commitment, beyond the present capacity of the U.S. Army and Marines, would not secure America's position, once the inevitable withdrawal began.

"It is over. What we need to face now are the consequence of the folly of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice in launching this unnecessary and unprovoked war, the folly of the neocon snake oil salesmen who bamboozled the media into believing in this insane crusade to bring democracy to Baghdad in the belly of Bradley fighting vehicles and the folly of the Democratic establishment in handing Bush a blank check for war out of political fear of being called unpatriotic."

Read the entire piece here--courtesy of RCP.
To honor the noble dead, and once more to refute the calumny that those who join the military are somehow "losers," this tribute to the late Sgt. 1st Class James D. Priestap. From Wizbang