Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hoisting the White Flag

Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering.

- Seneca

Other than reading about the tragic events at Virginia Tech, I’ve been out of touch with national and international news for the past month. I’ve been preoccupied with family affairs. A lot of water has passed under the bridge of history in that time. France will have new leadership in a couple of weeks. The DOW has surged to over 13,000. Boris Yeltsin died a few days ago. Rosie O’Donnell is leaving her daytime show. Katie Couric’s ratings are plummeting.

It all reads like the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. Politicians plea for votes. Money changes hands. People die, even famous ones. Celebrities self-destruct. It’s all so timeless.

There’s very little I read about in the news that’s really newsworthy. As Solomon wisely said, he’d seen it all before. So have I.

In Iraq, too, some things remain as they have for the past four years. There’s violence in the streets and innocent people are dying.

Something needs to be done to break the cycle, someone needs to win this war. A week ago Democratic senator Harry Reid gave us all the answer. On the 20th of this month he declared the war in Iraq lost. He tried for a few days to distance himself from the statement, but he couldn’t. He’d said what he said and that was that.

Republicans were furious. Democrats closed ranks. And, al Qaeda felt strengthened.

Now, this is news that really matters. The United States is on notice from its majority party that it’s time to surrender. The war is lost; it’s time to come home. And, they may get their wish.

Why does this matter? It matters for three reasons. First, the Democrats are now mounting a political offensive built on the foundation of capitulation that might well succeed. Second, Usama bin Laden and the terrorists have skillfully manipulated America’s political left to the brink of surrender and find themselves on the cusp of a cataclysmic victory. And third, the Republicans don’t seem to be offering any counter-strategy for victory for the free world.

There are a few exceptions for the Democrats, the most notable being Joe Lieberman. In this morning’s Washington Post he made the following observation about the Democratic Party’s legislative strategy:

“This reaction is dangerously wrong. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of both the reality in Iraq and the nature of the enemy we are fighting there.”

About the only counterweight the Republicans have is a presidential veto.

The terrorists must be dancing with glee. Victory indeed seems to be within their grasp.

This couldn’t be happening at a worse time for America. This is deadly serious business. We need to come together, but unfortunately we’re pulling further and further apart. As Israeli peace activist Ami Isseroff noted a couple of months ago:

“Unfortunately, it is equally true that everyone except those in the Bush administration ignores the disastrous consequences of a U.S. defeat in Iraq, not only for the US, but for European countries who depend on Persian Gulf oil, and for Arab allies of the US. The U.S. administration is playing politics with Iraq. They are denying the obvious facts, because the obvious facts are politically catastrophic for the Bush administration. Everyone else is playing politics with Iraq, in the mistaken belief that a U.S. defeat there will somehow give them an advantage. Everyone is working an angle instead of looking for a solution.”

The most frightening thing about all of this is the fact that if we don’t find a solution to this, the terrorists will certainly implement one of their choosing. And, I suspect it will look something like this:

“The problem of Iraq is not insoluble. I promise you that in five years, and if not in five years then in fifty, order will be restored to Iraq, in one way or another. However, the problem cannot be solved by ignoring it or by standing on the sidelines and watching, like spectators at a fire or rubberneckers at a road accident. If the U.S. leaves, then no doubt others will take over. The people of Iraq will live in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of a Mukhabarat (secret police) state, probably under the joint protection of Syria and Iran. Nor will this Middle Eastern paradise be confined to Iraq. With the collapse of U.S. influence in Iraq, Syria, Iran and their new-found Iraqi allies will be at liberty to spread their enlightened rule for the benefit of the editors of Daily Star in Beirut, and Al-Jazeera in Doha. As for the U.S. Democrats, they will be able to gloat that $10 a gallon gasoline is the fault of the Republicans.”
If, or when, that happens, I can assure you most solemnly that there won’t be room for elections, stock markets, or obituaries. I suppose there may even be a silver lining to it all. Rosie and Katie won’t be the centers of our collective attention either.


Bob said...

THe worst part about this is we are not losing in Iraq. The surge is working. If you read Michael Yon, Outside the Wire and other Mil blogs, you get a better picture of what is really going on. THe MSM has openly sided with the Anti-war left anf by default, the terrorists. If there is a parrallel to vietnam, this is it. Democrats are trying to pull us out of a war we are winning and , if they succedd, millions of people will die.

Rob in L.A. said...

"We need to come together, but unfortunately we’re pulling further and further apart." —Phil

This is an ironic sentence, because everything about George W. Bush’s war in Iraq has seemed divisive from the get-go. In everything characterizing Bush’s "war on terror," all has been employed, to my eyes, to advantage the Republican Party and disadvantage the Democratic Party. In other words, everything that Bush has done in the name of "national security" has served the propaganda purposes of touting the GOP as military strongmen and the Dems as "soft on defense." This was most obvious when, stumping for the Republican version of the Homeland Security Bill — without the labor protections that characterized the Democrats’ version of the bill — Bush said that the Dems "don’t care about the security" of this country. Bush is a divider, not a uniter.

It’s obvious that Bush wants some kind of showdown with the Democrats over the 2007 war-funding bill. If he didn’t, he would simply sign the legislation along with one of his infamous "signing statements," saying that he would disregard the bill’s timelines, as he has disregarded provisions that he didn’t like in other bills that he signed.

As for the timelines that Bush vetoed, there was nothing hard-and-fast about them. To refer to them as "surrender" is merely to inflame the rhetoric, making "coming together" even more difficult. Now, lawmakers of both parties are talking about crafting legislation with "benchmarks" instead of "timelines." But considering that the timelines in the vetoed legislation depended on the progress of the Iraqi government, the difference between a timeline and a benchmark is one without a distinction.

Furthermore, Bush’s bombast about "opinions of politicians" dangerously trumping the judgement of generals is dishonest in the extreme. When the invasion of Iraq was put together, the ideological assertions of the White House’s civilian neo-cons always overrode the estimations of seasoned military advisors. Most famously, before the invasion, after the Army’s then-Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki reasoned that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to pacify a post-Saddam Iraq — an estimation that flew in the face of the Bush White House’s rosy "greeted as liberators" scenario — the successor to his office was announced prematurely by the Defense Department, effectively rendering Shinseki a lame duck before his time. The Pentagon’s premature announcement smacked of retribution against Shinseki.

Phil says — omnisciently — that because of anti-war talk in Washington, "al Qaeda felt strengthened" and "terrorists must be dancing with glee." Secretary of Defense Robert Gates feels differently. Although opposed to congressionally imposed deadlines in Iraq, Gates was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "…I think that the debate itself … and strong feeling expressed in the Congress about the timetable … probably has had a positive impact — at least, I hope it has in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment."

Short of re-instituting a draft — something that Bush won’t touch — I don’t know what the answer to the mess in Iraq is. I would like to see greater order in the country before our American forces leave — lest Iraq descend into civil war and emerge as a Taliban-like theocracy that breeds terrorists — but I honestly don’t know if our troops, who are stretched dangerously thin, can achieve this. As for Bush’s talk of "progress" in Iraq, he has been talking about "progress" in that disintegrating country ever since 2003. By constantly proclaiming "progress," Bush is sounding like the boy who cried wolf.

Nowhere in Phil’s post do I see any criticism of the person who got the United States into this Iraq mess to begin with. George W. Bush sold the American public on his Iraq invasion as a quick, easy, and relatively bloodless adventure that would pay for itself in oil sales. He did not prepare us for a long, drawn-out quagmire, a body count in the thousands, and a war expenditure in the trillions. We now face the very real possibilities of either Iraq as a new Islamic regime that harbors terrorists (on the one hand) or a place where hundreds, maybe thousands, more of our young troops will be tragically sacrificed (on the other). Exactly how is this situation preferable to leaving an isolated, boxed-in Saddam Hussein in power?