Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Exercise in futility

While I was in Hawaii I watched the coverage of the Senate debate about the war with utter amazement. I could not understand why the Democrats allowed themselves to lured into something that will only highlight how divided and silly they look and are.

Joe Klein summed up the dilemma they face when he wrote:

"And so, a mystery: How is it possible, with 2,500 U.S. soldiers dead, no discernible progress on the ground and a solid majority of the public now agreeing that the war in Iraq was a mistake, for the Democrats to seem so bollixed about the war and for the President to seem so confident? A good part of it is flawed strategy. Democrats keep hoping that the elections can be framed as a referendum on the Bush policy, and Republicans keep reminding the public that elections are a choice, not a referendum. Last week, in the opening salvo of the 2006 Congressional elections, Bush and Rove were reminding voters that the choice would be between the Democratic strategy of "cut and run" and the Republican war against Islamic "fascists," as the President called them. It was clear, yet again, that Bush and Rove would surf the complexities of the conflict for their political advantage. "

The Democrats have only themselves to blame for their predicament. Mainly because they have allowed the question to be framed the wrong way. The choice is normally framed as "Cut and Run" vs "complete victory in the War on Terror". Neither is a correct description of the choices at hand. Their spokesmen and women are not credible (Kerry and Murtha have yet to learn when to keep their mouths shut. Having made legitimate points, it hurts your case to beat a dead horse....). Let's phrase the question a different way: " Is it in the United States' best interest to lose the lives of its sons and daughters for a group of Arabs who cannot and will not appreciate that sacrifice in the first place, and more importantly, will fail to make good on the opportunity that sacrifice has given them because of their adherence to a failed religion and outdated concepts of tribalism?" The answer to that question is no, and the answer was no in February of 2003.

One of the commentators on TV nailed the issue very succinctly. Both parties have "buyers remorse" about the war. Unfortunately wars of choice, based on a concept of "my national sovereignty means something, yours does not" are non- returnable and non-refundable. You are stuck with the consequences of the choices that were made. Sure Saddam is gone, but is the instability we got in its place is not in the best long term interest of both the Middle East and more importantly the United States.

Normally about this point in the debate two lines of argument will surface. The first is that by fighting Arabs over there we will keep from having to fight them on US soil, and second that the military has made progress in Weimar Germany Iraq,- "you simply refuse to see it. We are turning the corner on beating the bad guys and the death of Zarqawi is evidence of that". 40 people killed in one day in Baghdad yesterday kind of disproves that theory. At best, right now the US military presence is holding the level of violence to a certain level and preventing out right anarchy. That's not stability and its not sustainable in the long term. Why? Because the American public does not have the patience for the investment in time it will take to let the violence simply burn itself out.

My response to the first argument remains the same as it has been for the last year. You cannot cure a body of cancer as long as there is a force that sustains it and nourishes it. That lifeblood is Islam, the so called religion of peace. The cancer analogy is particularly apt because in the case of Iraq, we are attacking one tumor when the disease has already metastisized else where in the body (the world, as evidenced by the home grown terrorists arrests in Canada, Miami and Europe......). Because the cancer has already spread and we are unable to eliminate its Islamic lifeblood, the best answer is to apply strategic doses of medicine at vital locations and allow the body to stabilize its self and learn to live with the disease. Phrased another way, turn something life - threatenening into a chronic condition. The US efforts in the Philippines and Horn of Africa are probably the best examples of the judicisious applications of that kind of medicine, while the US conventional forces maintain the steady state deterrent posture to keep folks like China and Russia from capitalizing on the effects of the disease.

Which brings me back to the Democrats. They have to think smarter and realize that for better or worse, they are on the ship too. They have to see past the politics of short term gain and look to the future. To quote Klein again:

"What can the Democrats do? They can play politics or be responsible. The political option is to embrace "cut and run"; call for an immediate withdrawal, as Kerry did; and hope the public is so sick of Bush and
sick of the war that it will punish the g.o.p. in the fall. But embracing defeat is a risky political strategy, especially for a party not known for its warrior ethic. In fact, the responsible path is the Democrats' only politically plausible choice: they will have to give yet another new Iraqi government one last shot to succeed."

What it does not mean is that they have to give the captain of that ship a free pass for his errors in judgment. I disagree with Chap on that. The captain of a ship is responsible when he runs the ship into dangerous waters or aground. This captain particularly deserves to get burned for his decisions because he had better choices offered to him and ignored that. Most probably because of his narrow world view, more importantly because he is every bit as much political creature as his predecessor was. People forget that. Its why I believe the war was timed the way it was. I believe Bush and his advisors believed it would all be over by the fall of 2004 and they would be cruising into a landslide electoral victory and he would have finished the job that his father started. There is ample documentary evidence that the administration was told that was not possible and it was ignored. Ergo, he's responsible for that.

I have little faith in the current crop of Democrats, so I have little expectation of them being able to win without a dramatic change of focus and ideas. The hope for the future lies in the new generation of Democrats like James Webb, who like me, is a Republican whose party abandoned him, not the other way around. I think only they can lead the party away from "Democrats busy being Democrats, divided, defensive and confused about the war, being lead by Bush's favorite punching bag John Kerry". He's gotta go and never should have been nominated in 2004. Because he was, he lost when victory was possible (and in the only math that matters, the electoral college, they still came close). The Democrats have to wake up and realize in the words of Adolph Rupp (from the movie Glory Road), " This is the National Championship. They ( the Republicans) came to play. Are you surprised? You are going to have to play the game. Play the game".

That's right coach. The Democrats have got to stop expecting victory to just fall in their lap. They are going to have to play smart. There is plenty of material to capitalize on. Leave the war alone until they can step to the plate with a real alternative. Right now they don't offer one.---to everyone's detriment.


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