Tuesday, November 29, 2005
A Few Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts
First, a hearty belated Thanksgiving to both of my regular readers... and congratulations as well.
Why congratulations? Well, I noticed yesterday that my TTLB Ecosystem rating had dropped precipitously, from 83 daily visits before Thanksgiving to 33 over the weekend -- which dropped me from a rating in the #5900s to #7667, restoring me to Slimy Mollusc status just when I was starting to get used to being an Adorable Rodent.
In other words, you folks have better things to do over Thanksgiving than to read my blog. I congratulate you; your priorities are definitely in the right place! (On the other hand, Thanksgiving is now over, so I hope I'll see a boost in my ratings over the next day or so. On the third hand, if you've forgotten to come back and check this site again, you won't be reading this now anyway, will you?)
A lot has been going on, to be sure. The calls for an early American withdrawal from Iraq are growing increasingly shrill, and we're starting to hear noises from the Pentagon about it as well. I find this disheartening, mostly because I do not want the United States to withdraw before the Iraqis are ready for us to do so... and because I hate the thought of the political games people are playing with this.
Please note: I do not support keeping American troops in Iraq permanently, and I never have. I do not support keeping troops there simply to bolster my own trivial ego and my opinions of the war; my opinions, even were they expressed with the eloquence of Churchill and the wisdom of Washington, are not worth a single soldier's life, not by a long shot. If I'm given a choice between admitting that I'm wrong, or refusing to do so at the cost of American lives, I'll choose the former, ten times out of ten.
But I don't think I was (or am) wrong to support the war, not when so many troops on the ground continue to report on the wonderful results they're achieving... results that never get published in the mainstream press. And if Democrats can point to cold feet in their opposite numbers and crow "but your own man says so!", well, so can I:
I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.That's Sen. Joe Lieberman, writing in today's Wall Street Journal... and sounding more and more like a Zell Miller Democrat. I salute him, and wish his party had had the sense to nominate him for President in 2004.
Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.
There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.
Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
He, too, talks about troop pullbacks, but like President Bush, he puts them in the proper context:
Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to "lead the fight" themselves with logistical support from the U.S., and that that number should double by next year. If that happens, American military forces could begin a drawdown in numbers proportional to the increasing self-sufficiency of the Iraqi forces in 2006. If all goes well, I believe we can have a much smaller American military presence there by the end of 2006 or in 2007, but it is also likely that our presence will need to be significant in Iraq or nearby for years to come.Indeed. Let's remember that, as American troop pullbacks are scheduled -- due to success, not failure -- and Democrats inevitably snarl at Republicans that Rep. Murtha and moveon.org were right all along. For it would be a mistake, and a criminally stupid one, to keep more American troops in Iraq than are needed... just to keep the Democrats from crowing that it was their idea all along.
(Have you ever been to a parade, and watched a little boy go in front of the band leader and pretend that everyone is following him? Usually the little boy joins the fray long after the parade has started, and he continues marching his own way long after the parade has turned onto a side street and disappeared. Or, to put it another way -- I can write a letter to President Bush, demanding that he scale back troops in Iraq in 2006. If Bush then does exactly that, this is not proof that he's doing it on my say-so... or even that he's listening to me.)
Lots more in the news, to be sure. Political upheavals in Israel have caught my attention, and are alternately encouraging and depressing, depending on whom you ask. (Personally, I am not encouraged by the thought of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon making room for Shimon Peres in his new party; I've despised that opportunistic snake for years. But we'll see.) I'll write more about that later.
In the meanwhile, it's time for me to put warm Thanksgiving memories behind me, and get some work done! Thanks for stopping by; I'll see you later.
UPDATE: Jeff Harrell pointed me to this lucid, well-written article by Lorie Byrd:
The issues that the president has addressed -- the accusation that he lied about pre-war intelligence and that Democrats lied when they accused him of lying -- needed to be dealt with, and his excellent performance already appears to be showing some good results. There is a related issue, though, that is screaming to be addressed, and it needs to be done before the next election. The administration and Republicans at all levels next need to explain to the public how the actions of the Democrats over the past three years have exposed them as incapable of governing in today’s world of global Islamic terrorism.That's stronger than I would have put it. But she's got a point. Joe Liberman and Zell Miller aside, the leadership of the Democratic Party is marching us backward... which is decidedly not what we need in wartime.
One lesson learned over the past three years is that intelligence collected and interpreted by humans always contains an element of subjectivity and even what might appear a “slam dunk” can be found to be wrong.Indeed.
In light of this, voters have to ask on which side of the decision-making equation they want their leaders to err in this post-9/11 world. When it is pointed out that President Clinton was on-record saying the same things said by President Bush about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, many Democrats respond by saying, “Yes, but he didn’t take us to war over it.” That is exactly the point Republicans need to make. Someone needs to ask if Democrats would not take action knowing what they did about Saddam, and what would it take for them ever to decide to act against a known threat.
We not only know now that many Democrats, faced with the same information, failed to act, but many of those who supported the president’s decision to act, have now withdrawn that support. That is a set of facts that should not be ignored by voters in 2006 and 2008.
Of course, part of this point may be moot. Will the Republican party hold together behind the President's pro-victory stance? (Current circumstances lead me to wonder.) Will they be able to field a credible candidate for the Presidency in 2008? (And no, I would not be thrilled by a Condi Candidacy.)
I agree completely that the Democratic Party must be held accountable, to the voters, for going soft during wartime. But that won't mean much if the Republicans go soft too.
UPDATE II: Glenn Reynolds (who??) reports that Sen. John McCain has similar tough words, and calls it bipartisan support:
A date is not an exit strategy. To suggest that it is only encourages our enemies, by indicating that the end to American intervention is near. It alienates our friends, who fear an insurgent victory, and tempts undecideds to join the anti-government ranks.Indeed. Funny, it's the Democrats who keep talking about "winning the battle for hearts and minds"... but apparently that only matters to them if it's done their way.
Think about this for a moment. Imagine Iraqis, working for the new government, considering whether to join the police force, or debating whether or not to take up arms. What will they think when they read that the Senate is pressing for steps toward draw-down?
Are they more or less likely to side with a government whose No. 1 partner hints at leaving?
Prof. Reynolds also points to a poll, indicating that the majority of Americans support Lieberman and McCain's view of the war, not Jack Murtha's. (James Taranto pointed out the same thing two days ago.) As much as 70% of Americans believe that criticism of the war by Democratic senators hurts troop morale.
Will the Democrats get the message before the 2006 elections? It sounds as though Lieberman is there already. Will anyone else jump on the bandwagon? (Let's hope so... for the Democrats' sake. They sure haven't been winning many elections the way they're going.)
UPDATE III: With another hat tip to The Professor, the White House has released its National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. (I agree with Glenn; it seems to borrow a lot from Steven den Beste. But I can live with that, so long as the message gets out... and I imagine Mr. den Beste can too.)
The report seems to hit all the right notes, starting with its subtitle: Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State. Subject headings include:
- Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages
- Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest
- Failure is Not an Option
- Victory Will Take Time
- Our Victory Strategy Is (and Must Be) Conditions Based