Saturday, December 03, 2005

Reality Sundered


In 1968, Richard Nixon promised "peace with honor" in Vietnam using Eisenhower and Korea as his model. Nixon's promise of an honorable peace contributed heavily to his election as President. Instead our last memory of Vietnam is a helicopter lifting off a rooftop in Saigon. The symbolism couldn't have been clearer: America was impotent and forced to retreat.

This week, the President made a speech at the United States Naval Academy, which the media portrayed as a watershed moment because he rolled out a plan. To further reinforce that they know what they're doing, the Administration made this plan available to the public in a PDF document.

One reads much of the same rhetoric we've heard before in the thirty-eight pages. Declaring any timetable is a sign of weakness to the enemy and only emboldens the terrorists. Failure is not an option because the stakes are so high. On page 18 the Administration boasts, "Iraqis have hit every political benchmark in their transitional political process – and are on track to hit the next one: elections in December to select a four-year government under a democratic constitution, with full participation from all of Iraq’s main ethnic and religious communities."

All of which reads nice enough and in fairness to the Administration, Ambassador Negroponte has performed ably in facilitating dialogue among the disparate ethnic and religious groups. Furthermore, one can expect a concentrated effort of security on December 15th, as was the case in April. For one day in December at least the Iraqis may enjoy a day of order and hopefully no bloodshed. One had to be moved by the millions of determined Iraqis courageously risking their lives to cast ballots in April. I expect no less a display on December 15th and it really puts us Americans who don't vote too shame for our cynical apathy.

Nevertheless, it appears to me that President Bush and the body politic are disconnected from reality. The Administration's incompetence has put us in the following conundrum: the Iraqis are incapable of resisting the insurgents by themselves but our presence is the catalyst for the insurgency. With recruitment levels at all time lows and our forces stretched thin, the occupation isn't sustainable. Yet our withdrawal may facilitate further calamity and disruption in the region. Withdrawal is also dishonorable as I previously wrote on November 20th. A pre-mature pullout means Iraq becomes Lebanon redux - only worse. Stay and our military is bogged down in a conflict we will never prevail in because the definition of victory is amorphous. If victory means, "we'll stand down when the Iraqis can stand up" I don't see how we can leave anytime soon - if ever.

The statistics the Bush Administration cites about Iraqi battalions ready to lead and take control is reminiscent of Lyndon Johnson's Pentagon hyping body counts during Vietnam. During his speech, President Bush boasted that 40 Iraqi battalions led the fight against the insurgents in Tal Afar earlier this year. Yet Time magazine's Michael Ware who was embedded with the U.S. military during the Tal Afar battle told CNN, "With the greatest respect to the President, that's completely wrong." He further noted that, "I was with Iraqi units right there on the front line as they were battling with Al Qaeda. They were not leading." Most ominously, Mr. Ware revealed to CNN that: "I had had a very senior officer here in Baghdad say to me that there's never going to be a point where these guys will be able to stand up against the insurgency on their own."

How can we believe anything the Bush Administration has to say about Iraq? They claim to promote democracy but an indispensable component to a free society is an independent press. Now we're learning that the military manipulated the content of newspaper coverage in Iraq. To the average Iraqi citizen how is this any more credible than what their newspapers reported under Saddam Hussein? Of course the Bush Administration also purchased favorable news coverage of its education policies in the United States so expecting them to genuinely promote a free press in Iraq may be a stretch.

Page 20 of the Administration's glorious PDF document says: "The United Nations is also playing an important role in Iraq’s political transition, and plans to expand its capacity with hundreds of personnel located throughout the country. The Arab League, the European Union, and other important regional actors are all engaged and working to support the Iraqi political process." I seem to recall UN personnel fleeing for their lives from Iraq as the U.S. military struggled to preserve order. A viable international presence doesn't seem possible given the reality on the ground.

Sadly, I think Congressman Murtha's proposal is the only way to go. I take no pleasure in writing that. Ideally we all want peace with honor but the Bush Administration has made that impossible. A redeployment over six months as Murtha has proposed is both sensible and a reflection of reality. Congressman Murtha is renowned for having a special relationship with the Pentagon. I doubt he just pulled this proposal out of thin air. I think it likely it reflects the consensus and conventional wisdom of the military brass that are in the know. Publicly they have to reflect the Administration's views. Privately they told Mr. Murtha the truth.

What about the Administration's argument that timetables only serve to embolden the enemy? Well, they're already emboldened. As long as we're there it is impossible for moderate political forces to achieve a separate identify from American occupiers. Furthermore our presence exponentially increases the recruitment of terrorists.

Either way, whether the insurgents ultimately take power or continue to wreck havoc from the sidelines, Iraq appears headed toward becoming a base of worldwide terrorism just as Afghanistan did after the CIA left the country when the Cold War ended. Unlike what happened with Afghanistan in the nineties however, Murtha's proposal makes it possible to maintain a quick strike force that can put out terrorist brush fires and hopefully contain such a menace within Iraqi borders. This is not a perfect solution. At times we will be at odds with sovereign Iraqi power whenever we move in and take out an Iraqi terrorist cell. Also with every incursion it will reinforce the notion that the Iraqi government truly cannot stand on their own.

But that is better than a status quo of being occupiers in a land that doesn't want us there. It's also better than doing nothing as terrorists use Iraq to export and expand their operations. The best we can hope for is implementing a policy of containment inside Iraq's borders - and Murtha's redeployment plan makes that more possible. Hopefully, a quick strike force outside of Iraq but mobolized to act on a moment's notice can at least buy a newly elected government time to consolidate their institutions and get their bearings. It's not peace with honor. But it is reality and that's what is needed now.

13 comments:

VTPOET said...

"I haven't read Murtha's proposal, but it sounds as though it
presupposes a somewhat unified Iraq. It also presupposes that we will
know who and where the terrorists are.

Suppose it *does* work out this way. It will only be a matter of time
before intel directs our bomb at some pre-school.

I just don't see how Iraq will avoid Civil War as a Democracy. It
seems likely that Iran will continue to exert an increasingly more
prevasive influence over the most powerful elements within a Iraq.
Governance within Iraq will quickly devolve into an authoritarian
Theocracy. The United States will find its hands tied. Does it
continue to alienate the middle east? - or does it allow a bad
situation to become worse?

It's very likely that the larger Iraq population would like to live in
peace, potentially a Democracy, and with moderate Islam, but the wrong
people have been radicalized by American's mishandling of the war.
They are willing to kill to get their way -- and as any Authoritarian
and Theocratic Regime knows, that's all you need.

It's a lose lose situation.

There will be no peace with honor if America withdraws within the next
50 years."

Rob said...

VT Poet -

Welcome to the blog. I appreciate you sharing your views.

Oddly enough I don't disagree with what you have to say. As I wrote, Murtha's proposal is far from a perefect soulution and not peace with honor. As I also wrote in a post on November 20th, I find myself agreeing with Murtha's proposal and feeling disgusted by it at the same time.

But thanks to Bush, we really don't have a choice in the matter. The situation illustrates just how ill advised the war was in the first place. At best, AT BEST, we have to implement a policy of containment.

I have a bigger theory about what may be going on behind the scenes in the Gulf and will write more in a another post soon.

Joop de Jour said...

The question for me is the morality of leaving and the level of violence left in our wake. However, were we to pull out now or 5 years from now, it has been pointed out that the result will be the same either way. I am sure that what the military leaders on the ground actually believe and say behind closed doors is different than their adherence to morale would indicate. Murtha is surely behind those closed doors.

This has got to be one of the grandest military blunders in modern times; a failure on every conceivable level which cannot easily be emphasized to the point of hyperbole. The public knows it, everyone knows it, and it's merely a matter of time before duped 9/11 cons stop trying to conceal their shame and admit it.

Rob said...

Joop de Jour -

Welcome to the blog and by the way - Joop de Jour is easily the coolest name to have posted comments so far!

I share your sentiments about the morality of withdrawing now - hence that is why I've referred to withdrawal as dishonorable.

But as you also pointed out, the results appear to be the same either way - so we're asking our troops to risk their lives over a futile enterprise by remaining. There doesn't appear to be any good options at this point.

For now, a policy of containment is the only real option in Iraq as they appear to be on their way of becoming a base for terrorism. And containment can't be achieved through occupation. It may not be possible to achieve through redeployment either with Congressman Murtha's proposal.

VT Poet noted in his posted comments that if we're redeployed and attempt to strike a terrorist cell from the outside to contain the menace of terrorism - it's only a matter of time before we hit a school instead. And he's right. That's the mess this President has gotten us into. Murtha's proposal I believe is the least of all evils.

But as I also noted in my response to VT Poet - I believe there is more happening behind the scenes in the region which I have a theory about. My next post, hopefully on December 7th, will address that. So stay tuned!

VTPOET said...

Well, that's what Murtha claims and I believe him. There are ethical
quandaries in staying *and* in going. The bottom line, however, is in deciding whether our presence is contructive. The only argument, that
I can see, in favor of our staying is that it buys time for the
formation of some kind of stable government.

But that just doesn't seem to be in the cards, what with Syria and
Iran doing their best to play up religious animosities (which will
only work in Iran's favor).

Check out the following site:

How Bush Created a Theocracy in Iraq
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/120205E.shtml

Rob said...

VT Poet -

Who knows if anything we do will be constructive at this point. Remaining won't buy a newly elected government time because our presence only serves to incite the insurgents. Our departure potentially gives them carte blanche.

A redeployment will hopefully spare our military further attrition but allow us the flexibility to act quickly if needed. As you pointed out previously however, that too contains inherent problems. There is no perfect, honorable solution anymore. That's the box we find ourselves in.

Regards,
Rob

Frank P said...

Reality sundered? What strange words you Americans use. Everyone ‘sunders’ reality on a moment-to-moment basis in order to deal with the bits of it that demand immediate attention and are apposite to their own selfish or partisan interests. Reality, in my book, is some big s.o.b. The Great Scheme of Things defies human imagination. The bits of reality that you seem to want to address are those only that do not serve your interests as a liberal Democratic wet who is still smarting because his party did not have its way with the electorate at the last election; moreover, I suggest, one who has his eye on the mid-term elections that are fast approaching, rather than the global predicament that we all face regardless of out petty political preferences. If you want to propagate party interest, fine. But don’t wrap it up in bullshit about Vietnam quagmires. This is a new ball game. It is one that should have been won during the first Gulf War, but was suspended much too early in the form of a truce due to a mixture of squeamishness and a craven fear of grasping the political reality of the Middle East. A very nasty and potentially dangerous despot was left to foment serious trouble for the West and wreak havoc on his own peoples. Dubya The Shrub got it - and still gets it! He has done something about it. Get behind your Commander-in-Chief and stop whinging! The MSM and the ‘enemy within’ are doing more to harm the allied war effort than the rag-tag-and-bobtail cowards who describe themselves as ‘insurgents’. In fact they don’t call themselves anything of the kind – that’s another euphemism cobbled up by the MSM. What they call themselves is: Holy warriors of Allah and his Messenger (peace be on him). If you want a bit of a reality check, I suggest you visit the following blog, which one of your compatriots, exiled in Britain, has been running here for the past couple of years or so. His last four or five posts on ‘The Project’ should interest you and put some steel in your spine:

http://dailyablution.blogs.com/the_daily_ablution/

Ignore, pro tem, the last post – ‘Greens Amok’ which is a somewhat more light-hearted piece (but also part of un-sundered reality that you might later want to factor in). Post some comments and list your own blog, which may attract visitors to it who will test your assertions.

It needed a series of very nasty incidents to wake America up from its isolationist slumber; some were just straws in the wind that should have been heeded, but they culminated in the concerted series of egregious attacks on Western Civilisation that has now been reduced to a rather stupid numerical euphemism: Nine Eleven! Other after-quakes have occurred around the World with their own mini-euphemisms. If you don’t think that Saddam Hussein was a causal factor in that outrageous challenge to Western Civilisation -that worst day of infamy in US history since Pearl Harbour - you are sadly deluded. He was the big boy on the block and was defying Uncle Sam. His unheeded (States-side)‘numero uno’ at America was indeed heeded by half-assed and demented Islamic revolutionaries who interpreted it as an indication that the West had ‘gone soft’.

Unless this job is finished and the nests of hornets are neutralised, forget your liberal aspirations for ‘peace-loving’ nations on earth - unless of course your desire is for Islam to return us to the sixth and seventh centuries. If that is the case then you had best start to make arrangements for the return of North America to its indigenous natives and return yourself to the lands where perhaps your own ancestors lived under somewhat less liberal and free conditions (I suspect) than you enjoy today. In the meantime I suggest you get behind the PBI who are putting their asses on the line for you daily and who deserve your support, not your partisan treachery. This is not a game of political niceities and manners!

Frank Pulley said...

Reality sundered? What strange words you Americans use. Everyone ‘sunders’ reality on a moment-to-moment basis in order to deal with the bits of it that demand immediate attention and are apposite to their own selfish or partisan interests. Reality, in my book, is some big s.o.b. The Great Scheme of Things defies human imagination. The bits of reality that you seem only to want to address are those that serve your interests as a liberal Democratic wet who is still smarting because his party did not have its way with the electorate at the last election; moreover, I suggest, one who has his eye on the mid-term elections that are fast approaching, rather than the global predicament that we all face regardless of out petty political preferences. If you want to propagate party interest, fine. But don’t wrap it up in bullshit about Vietnam quagmires. This is a new ball game. It is one that should have been won during the first Gulf War, but was suspended much too early due to a mixture of squeamishness and a craven fear of grasping the political reality of the Middle East. A very nasty and potentially dangerous despot was left to foment serious trouble for the West and wreak havoc on his own peoples. Dubya The Shrub got it - and still gets it! He has done something about it. Get behind your Commander-in-Chief and stop whinging! The MSM and the ‘enemy within’ are doing more to harm the allied war effort than the rag-tag-and-bobtail cowards who describe themselves as ‘insurgents’. In fact they don’t call themselves anything of the kind – that’s another euphemism cobbled up by the MSM. What they call themselves is: Holy warriors of Allah and his Messenger (peace be on him). If you want a bit of a reality check, I suggest you visit the following blog, which one of your compatriots, exiled in Britain, has been running here for the past couple of years or so. His last four or five posts on ‘The Project’ should interest you and put some steel in your spine:

http://dailyablution.blogs.com/the_daily_ablution/

Ignore, pro tem, the last post –‘Greens Amok’ which is a somewhat more light-hearted piece (but also part of un-sundered reality that you might later want to factor in). Post some comments and list your own blog, which may attract visitors to it who will test your assertions.

It needed a series of very nasty incidents to wake America up from its isolationist slumber; some were just straws in the wind that should have been heeded, but they culminated in the concerted series of attacks on Western Civilisation that has now been reduced to a rather stupid numerical euphemism: Nine Eleven! Other after-quakes have occurred around the World with their own mini-euphemisms. If you don’t think that Saddam Hussein was a causal factor in that egregious challenge to Western Civilisation, the worst day of infamy in US history since Pearl Harbour, you are sadly deluded. He was the big boy on the block and was defying Uncle Sam. His unheeded (States-side anyway)‘numero uno’ at America was indeed heeded by the half-assed Islamic revolutionaries as an indication that the West had ‘gone soft’.

Unless this job is finished and the nests of hornets are neutralised, forget your liberal aspirations for ‘peace-loving’ nations on earth - unless of course your desire is for Islam to return us to the sixth and seventh centuries. If that is the case then you had best start to make arrangements for the return of North America to its indigenous natives and to return yourself to the lands where perhaps your own ancestors lived under somewhat less liberal and free conditions (I suspect) than you enjoy today. In the meantime I suggest you get behind the PBI who are putting their asses on the line for you daily and who deserve your support, not your partisan treachery.

vtpoet said...

//This is a new ball game. It is one that should have been won during the first Gulf War, but was suspended much too early due to a mixture of squeamishness and a craven fear of grasping the political reality of the Middle East.//

Since there is no way of knowing how removing Saddam during the first Gulf War would have played out, there's really nothing to discuss here except "what ifs". Bush Senior chose not to. Since you seem to know what the political reality of the Middle East was, at the time, why don't you elaborate, or is this just posturing?


//A very nasty and potentially dangerous despot was left to foment serious trouble for the West and wreak havoc on his own peoples. Dubya The Shrub got it - and still gets it!//

And replaced with what? For how long? At what cost? Bush himself strictly rejected Nation Building when campaigning against Gore. This and the naive idealism of the Democrats (think Vietnam) were to be soundly rejected by Bush. As it turns out, just the opposite occurred. There's no question but that a nasty man was removed. However, Bush's solution was and is a failure. There were other options and hopefully such options will be pursued in the future. There will doubtless be other Saddams as Nuclear technology spreads.


//He has done something about it.//


Correction. He *did* something about it. Now, the only question is how to clean up his mess. That is all that matters. I see you haven't offered any ideas, just defensive whining.

//Get behind your Commander-in-Chief and stop whinging!//

In this country our loyalty is to our principles and our history, not political parties or their leaders. This is conservatism and this would be in marked distinction to the behavior of certain European countries.

//The MSM and the ‘enemy within’ are doing more to harm the allied war effort than the rag-tag-and-bobtail cowards who describe themselves as ‘insurgents’.//

Do you have any facts to back this up or is this just rhetoric?


// His last four or five posts on ‘The Project’ should interest you and put some steel in your spine...//

Yes, and this is news? Look, I wouldn't be suprised that two thirds of the religious instituations in this world have plans for reforming the world. Extremism is endemic to human nature. As far as supressing Islamic extremism, Saddam was our man. Nobody in the middle east was as successful as Saddam when it came to shutting down radical Islam. What has Bush's invasion accomplished? At best, a Theocracy with impatient gestures toward Democracy. At present, he has created an extremist free-for-all in the middle of the middle-east and he has proven singularly unable to control or squelch it. Furthermore, Bush has shown no inclination to adjust his strategy.


//It needed a series of very nasty incidents to wake America up from its isolationist slumber...//

Blah, blah, blah... Listen, America isn't the world's policeman. And this assertion is part and parcel of rock-solid conservatism. America will collapse if it is forced to clean up everybody else's mess. This is the world's problem, not America's problem. Or at least it should have been until Bush moved in.


//Unless this job is finished and the nests of hornets are neutralised//


And how will this happen? Do you think Bush's idealistic nation building is working? At the very least, America deserves a real conservative, not this pretender. Whatever happened to fiscal constraint?- balanced budgets? - accountability? What happened to building and maintaining a strong military. What happened to holding other nations *accountable* for their own problems.

In another era, *you* would be the bleeding heart liberal. You want America to build nations, solve the world's problems, and thrust its idealism into every other cultures dirty laundry. Give me a break.

Rob said...

//Nine Eleven! Other after-quakes have occurred around the World with their own mini-euphemisms. If you don’t think that Saddam Hussein was a causal factor in that egregious challenge to Western Civilisation, the worst day of infamy in US history since Pearl Harbour, you are sadly deluded. //

With all do respect sir you are a deluded man. I almost find your musings comical. There is no evidence that Saddam had anything do with 9/11. Even President Bush said so last year - publicly contradicting his Vice President who is even more deluded than you.

//I suggest you get behind the PBI who are putting their asses on the line for you daily and who deserve your support, not your partisan treachery.//

First of all sir, dissent is not treachery but an American tradition of patriotism. In America we consider principled dissent our duty and silence to be cowardice. Indeed those who try to stifle dissent in the name of patriotism expose themselves as cowards who are regulated by fear. I find your views of patriotism and dissent resembling that of Joseph Stalin. Hence to me you are a Stalinist. Well if that's your cup of tea so be it. I prefer the Democratic values of James Madison. The Democratic values that my grandfather who escaped the Nazis in Poland at the age of 16 revered - before he could be creameated in a concentration camp.

My dissent has nothing to do with the partisan benefit of the Democratic Party and everything to do with the welfare of my country and those being asked to sacrafice their lives.

I support the proposal of Congressman John Murtha. Are you accusing him of treachery? This is a man who bled for my country as a marine. DON'T YOU DARE CALL HIM A TRAITOR. DON'T YOU DARE ACCUSE A MAN LIKE THAT OF PARTISAN TREACHERY. DON'T YOU DARE ACCUSE THIS MAN OF NOT SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS WHEN HE'S VISITED THE WOUNDED AT WALTER REED HOSPITAL MORE FREQUENTLY THAN THE ENTIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY COMBINED.

The reality is this sir: thanks to the Bush Adminstration's incompetence we can't defeat the insurgents with a military presence in Iraq. One similarity with Vietnam is that military force will never be enough. The difference is that unlie the Vietcong, these people will export their menace. So, we have to strategically redeploy and contain it from spreading. That is the horrible positon that this President and delusional minds like yours have put my country in.

The majority of my country agrees with that point of view. And I can assure you the majority of Americans are not traitors. I was in Manhattan on 9/11. I knew two people I used to work with who died at the WTC that day. I supported the Administration's invasion of Afghanistan because that was the appropriate response to the circumtances. Iraq was not.

Regards,
Rob

Ghost said...

Actually, we are making clear slow progress in Iraq, and the majority of Iraqis do think they are better off than they were under Saddam. The majority also longs for the day US forces leave, but does not think they should leave now. So if you ask Iraqis "Do you favor the occupation", you will get one answer, and if you ask "Should all Coalition troops withdraw tomorrow", you will get a very different one.

Congressman Murtha, whom is quoted so often now on this blog, said after President Bush's speech on Najaf and Mosel:

"When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us," he said.

However, this is simplistic and largely untrue. The problem is it breaks down by ethnic groups. The Kurds and Shia (80% of Iraqis) live in the safest areas, have seen the most rebuilding as a result, have improving economies and lives, and largely support a continued US presence over the next year or so. Of course they still do not "favor occupation" (a loaded poll question if ever there was one).

The Sunnis have very poor security, therefore very spotty rebuilding. Many of them are worse off than they were under Saddam, when they enjoyed privileged status. The country as a whole, for example, has more electricity than pre-Saddam, but Sunni areas used to get more than their fair allocation. They probably get less electricity currently than under Saddam.

However, many Sunnis, at least, are beginning to see the rise of the Kurdish and Shia influence as inevitable. The increasing level of Sunni political participation is a sign of the grudging acceptance of a new reality and the need to work within it, rather than merely refuse to participate. This is a great step forward for us, and should be recognized.

Of course for now, the rest of the Middle East public does have a very negative view of the US role in Iraq. That is not surprising given the overall historical context and what they have been hearing. Our mistakes, and there have been many, are greatly magnified when viewed through the historical prism in the region. Congressman Murtha's plan (basically conceding defeat) will do nothing to reverse this.

The only way we will change these perceptions in the Middle East is with actual, slow, clear progress on the ground in Iraq. Things are slowly improving there despite what critics say. Some cities that were once very troubled are now largely peaceful and the overall economy is growing with falling unemployment.

To deny any progress at all because of disappointment with the pace of progress and a prism that assumes the worst about anything the Bush Administration does is to risk a true disaster, in my opinion.

Try to keep an open mind and remember the slow pace of history. Change takes many years in places like Iraq, not months.

VT Poet said...

Hi Ghost,

Who wrote:

//The majority also longs for the day US forces leave, but does not think they
should leave now. //


Yes, the majority of Iraqis would like to live in peace and probably under moderate
Islam. The majority of Syrians probably would like that too. The majority of
Egyptians too, if the elections weren't rigged and government so corrupt. How about
Algeria, North Korea, etc...? There's probably not a population in any part of the
world wherein the majority wouldn't like to live in peace with moderation in
politics and religion.

I think, by in large, human beings are a peaceful bunch.

But we don't fight wars with the peaceful bunch. It may have been the sociologist
George Simmel who wrote that it only takes four men, willing to kill, to control a
hundred. These are the people we are fighting against, and as long as they are
willing to kill, it just doesn't matter what the majority wants. The war must
continue until either all the killers are killed, or what we have been fighting for
no longer exists.

And though the majority may long for peace and stability, have they been asked
whether they would shelter their cousin from Syria before a US soldier? Where do
their sympathies lie?

How long do we stay? What is our responsibility to the rest of these peoples? How do
we accomplish these aims? How do we afford our decisions?

Since we can't kill all the killers (those who won't be persuaded), does what we're
fighting for still exist? I think that's questionable. Your comments seem to ignore
that there is a civil war going on. The Kurds already live in an autonomous state.
Are they really going to settle for anything less? -- their grudging nod to the
"constitution" notwithstanding. It's in the Kurds' interest that the Sunnis and Shia
cut each others throats.


Is the US continued presence really relieving the pressure? - have we controlled the
river or will the dam break the moment we turn our backs? I think your comments,
while they may speak for the majority, ignore the small but powerful currents that
long for a great reckoning in little country.


//"When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned
against us," he said.

However, this is simplistic and largely untrue. The problem is it breaks down by
ethnic groups. The Kurds and Shia (80% of Iraqis) live in the safest areas, have
seen the most rebuilding as a result, have improving economies and lives, and
largely support a continued US [presence]//

I would question Murtha's assertion as well. The real question is in asking what we
are fighting for? A unified and stable Iraq? Is it attainable? Present events in
Iraq profoundly argue against it. Unless Bush is willing to consider a change of
course (and the Moon turns out to be cheese) we need to get out.

//The increasing level of Sunni political participation is a sign of the grudging
acceptance of a new reality and the need to work within it, rather than merely
refuse to participate. This is a great step forward for us, and should be
recognized.//

It's a great step forward for *us*? Maybe, but is it a great step forward for
*them*? I know I'm quibbling with words but look, is this happening solely because
of our presence? Once we're gone, there is ample evidence that this "grudging
acceptance" will evaporate.

How long do we stay? At what cost to our own nation?

We can't afford this success that you seem to be accepting as more than just a
veneer. It's not real, not if you read between the lines. Bush needs to change
course and very possibly accept the demise of Iraq. Either that or get out. We
simply cannot afford to remain there another 10, 20, 50 years. This isn't postwar
Germany or Japan. I can think of any number of countries whose populations would
like us to move in and caretake..

//Congressman Murtha's plan (basically conceding defeat) will do nothing to reverse
this.
//

It can as easily be said that Wishful thinking and rosy glasses will do nothing to
reverse this either.



//The only way we will change these perceptions in the Middle East is with actual,
slow, clear progress on the ground in Iraq.//

Agreed. But that hasn't happened. The progress is not clear. Where do you draw the
line? What constitues clear or actual progress?
Do we enforce our ideas of progress on them? What if clear progress means three
nations, two of which being theocracies? If you don't like that idea of progress,
who is going to change that and how?


//Things are slowly improving there despite what critics say. Some cities that were
once very troubled are now largely peaceful and the overall economy is growing with
falling unemployment.//

How long do we stay?


//To deny any progress at all because of disappointment with the pace of progress
and a prism that assumes the worst about anything the Bush Administration does is to
risk a true disaster, in my opinion.//


How long do we stay?


//Try to keep an open mind and remember the slow pace of history. Change takes many
years in places like Iraq, not months.//

How long? Who pays? What's an acceptable mortality rate?

Rob said...

Ghost -

As the Prussian General Clausewitz once said, "War is politics by other means."

In this instance the politics of Bush's objective in Iraq was never clear. Even if you give him and Cheney the benefit of the doubt regarding their veracity, their measurments of success are beyond what a military presence can accomplish now. Indeed, maintaining current troop levels is in fact resulting in diminishing returns and undermining our national security. We're not good at nation building by ourselves. In Afghanistan we at least have some help on the ground because we enjoyed international support from the get go. The Germans have been especially helpful in Afghanistan. Nobody wants to help us in Iraq.

The time has come to pivot to a policy of containment. I'm dubious about whether even that can succeed. On that I do not share Congressman Murtha's optimism. But we have little choice. That's the tight spot we find ourselves in thanks to this deluded and incompetent President as well as a spineless Democratic Party which three years ago did not live up to its obligation as an opposition party.

Regards,
Rob