Sunday, November 13, 2005

At least he is not in the bunker........

Played golf today, and in what has to be a another sign of the Apocalypse, on most holes I hit my driver long and straight. I've been playing with my swing a little at the driving range trying my best to put those golf channel "Lessons from the pros.." to good use.

My normal golf game is a combination of shots that make me happy and shots that just piss me off. Many times especially on hole number 18 , a 155 yard Par 3, where the green is 30 feet above the tee box and as a result plays long; I am forced to console myself with the statement,
" Well, at least its not in the bunker......"

George W. Bush gave a speech Friday, which took on his critics and struck back at them. While I did not see it live due to the fact that it was on during my sleeping time, I've since watched replays of quotes, read the text and listened and read the pundits....... Probably the best way to sum it up is the same as my golf game, "At least he is not in the bunker (anymore)."

That's a good thing in and of itself. After all, George W. has had a lot of sand play lately on this second round of presidential golf. He hit into the Katrina bunker very unexpectedly on an easy hole. Tee'ed up on the Supreme Court hole only to slice hard into a deep fairway bunker on the right side. Ended up having to take a 1 stroke penalty for an unplayable lie.

Then, one of his playing partners was withdrawn and it is unsure if Carl is going to be able to finish the round. And of course GW has never really recovered from digging himself deep into that "mother of all sand traps" Iraq.

Basically the pundits come down on the speech about as expected. If you support Bush , then its a good speech; if you do not, then its a whitewash. Lex, Jeff Goldstein, and Instapundit all like it. (that's a good cross section of the really intelligent thinkers...). Moving on them from them, well, the usual sycophants liked it: The LBFM and the rest of the right wing sycophants like it , of course. Left wing bloggers hated it. I think it was a good speech, albeit a bit long, and as it typical for Bush, delivered poorly; in his "I can't believe I have to justify my decisions" style. And certainly Bush needs to do something after being backed up against the wall these last few weeks. He has the right to defend himself.

What I do not understand is the location of the speech. Seems to me the President is falling back on his old standby of using the military as props whenever he needs to make a point about Iraq. Why? As I have said before, they are not the people he has to convince. Why not use his authority as President to call a joint session of Congress and take this issue head on? In front of Congress and on national TV is where he should be saying:

While it is perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate
investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs. They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. Many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: 'When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security.' That's why more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The stakes in the global War on Terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our
troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our Nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory.

I've never understood this whole emphasis on a consistent message for the troops thing. Having been in the military previously and knowing and working with military folks now, they expect nothing more from our politicians than they are already getting. And as for consistency, well if GW wanted a consistent message on the GWOT, perhaps he should consider the inconsistencies in his own administrations message, e.g. continuing to shrink the overall active duty force and at the same time oppose paying troops money that is rightfully theirs ( No pay raise in FY-07 which is the current administration budget position), that certainly sends the wrong message to the troops.

To me, the argument over WMD's was, and will always be, a red herring. Lets face it, many who now argue against the war, did believe in 2002 that Saddam was working to get WMD's. He was not the only leader of a one party state who was doing so at the time. However Iraq, was the nation that the President decided early on to go after. And there were critics at the time who warned him that this was a foolhardy thing to do, and that in the long run would create greater headaches than it solved. James Webb was one. The question he asked then, and still asks now, is the one the President still has trouble answering today:
Is (was) there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? And would such a war and its aftermath actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism?

That's the part of the current congressional uneasiness that the administration tends to gloss over. The reasons for the Iraq war have continued to morph into various forms as the occupation / Iraqi defense. Prior to the war, one could hear 5 rationales for going to war:

1) WMD
2) Al Quaeda link
3) Saddam is Evil
4) Regime change (related to #3)
5) Getting rid of Saddam will free up US troops in the Middle East for other areas in the GWOT.

Democracy and setting the reforming the entire Middle East was never part of any of the public rationale. After the war, early on it was not a part of the explanation package either. It was only in the last 12 months did democratization become the major theme. Again Mr Webb says it better than I (from a book review he did) :

The 2003 invasion of Iraq and its consequences owe more to the insistent saber-rattling of the removed, intellectual classes than any other war in American history. That so many leaders and commentators now coldly politicize what is, at bottom, a visceral and powerfully emotional experience for those on the receiving end of our invasion has magnified the inability of many Americans to understand the differences between the Bush administration's aspirations and Iraq's realities. It also has depersonalized the Iraqi people in many eyes and fed the irony of the rhetoric from those who claim that Iraqi resistance is driven simply by the fear and hatred of the "freedom" America has brought them. The U.S. leadership views the attempt to overhaul Iraq as power politics, designed to remake an entire region. Most Iraqis, by contrast, measure the invasion and occupation through its impact on diverse cultural forces, strongly held local traditions and a long history of other invasions and occupations.....

Indeed, few Americans grasp how deeply Iraqis feel their own history, or how fiercely they have always resisted foreign occupation. "The last four centuries were hell," one burly, aging Iraqi academic says to Shadid. "Despotic, tyrannical, bloody regimes, and most of them were foreign." We learn that President Bush's promise that the U.S. military would arrive in Iraq not as conquerors but as liberators was virtually identical to the words British Maj. Gen. Sir Stanley Maude used in 1917 ("Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators"), when Britain began a decades-long occupation during World War I, defeated the Ottoman Turks and took control of Iraq's oil. "It's a long story, the history of Iraq," a Baghdad restaurateur told Shadid, without apparent irony.

Mr Webb has been a consistent opponent of the War in Iraq. He is hardly a liberal though, which is why one should listen to what he has to say. He is one of the few authors these days who make the key distinction between Iraqi national interest and United States national interest, which are not and never will be the same. Webb makes no secret of the fact that he comes squarely down on the side of US national interests; by that criteria alone all five of the pre-war objectives have been accomplished, ergo its time for the US to move on and throw the Iraqi's into the deep end of the pool and let them swim for themselves. To me, his logic makes a lot more sense than some of the arguments put forth for maintaining a 5 year troop presence in Iraq (from an interview with the San Diego Tribune):

What is your take on the wisdom of our strategy in Iraq and the competence of its execution?

I was an early voice saying we shouldn't go in, that it was not connected to the war against international terrorism, that it was not among the highest national security concerns that we should be considering. My warning before we went in was basically that it was a strategic mousetrap on three different levels. One is that it would involve the nation's focus and attention and resources beyond military resources to the detriment of other interests. Second was that if you're going to decapitate a government, you would be draining your force structure. And thirdly, in the sense that we have focused so strongly on the Sunnis while the Shiites have been in a win-win since day one, and as a result we're empowering Iran.
Has that view changed any now?


You don't buy the argument that it didn't used to be about terrorism and al-Qaeda but that now it is?

I think the tragedy in my view of Iraq is that it has created a lot more terrorists than would have existed if we hadn't gone in. I don't think it's a plus that Iraq is filled with terrorists right now. This isn't a zero-sum game like there's only X number of terrorists in the world and as a result we're going to draw them to the flytrap and kill them off. ( Skippy-san comment: Ask the folks in Jordan about that! They might agree with you.)

There are a lot of people who say we made a terrible mistake but we will compound it if we just back out now. Do you agree?

I'm not saying we should pick up everything and leave in six months. I'm saying we made a horrendous mistake going in, in my view a strategic error. This is not a moral comment. There are a lot of situations around the world where I wouldn't shed a tear if a leader were taken out. The question is where you draw your national priorities and how that plays out. I was in Beirut as a journalist in 1983. It was an incredible experience for me looking at the lay of the land. We had an issue when I was secretary of the Navy where we tilted toward Iraq (during the Iran-Iraq war). I think I was the only guy in the Reagan administration who opposed the tilt toward Iraq in writing.

What's your recommendation on how we get out?

I think there are two things that need to happen. The first is that the
administration needs to say with absolute clarity that we have no long-term aspirations in Iraq. And then the other is to reinvolve a lot of the countries
that are in that region. Iran's probably too dangerous because of the way they've moved into the Shiite areas; But to reinvolve the Arab nations and invite them to participate in the solution.

We have invested 3 billion a year in Egypt, a good amount in Jordan and also a lot in Saudi Arabia. If the Arabs were smart they would be actively seeking to take over Iraqi security responsibilities to reduce American presence in what they should rightfully see as an Arab region. ( I have not seen one bit of movement to getting a pan -Arab security force to take over from the US in would certainly take less time than the current route.....).

So forget the WMD's! That's ancient history and any time wasted discussing it takes emphasis away from the real argument here: Why did the president take the nation on this expensive little detour? And if it was freakin' necessary for Bush to play mid wife to democracy in Iraq, then why are we so skittish in other places where the threat is bigger? (e.g. Asia) Finally, if this is part of a long term (15 year+) plan, why does the Bush administration continue to underesource the armed forces make them work a hell of lot harder than they should have to in this effort? (A 10 division army doing the work of a 14-15 division one and a 290 ship Navy doing the work of 450......)

Now there is a worthwhile discussion, particularly as the President gets ready to sit down and have tea and smile with the leaders of a brutally undemocratic country. ( Such as China?) .

just my opinion,



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