good point

WITHOUT meaning to do so, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pushed the debate on Iraq in a new direction.Reid claims that the war is lost and that the United States has already been defeated.

By advancing the claim, Reid has moved the debate away from the initial antiwar obsession with the legal and diplomatic controversies that preceded it.

At the same time, Reid has parted ways with Democratic leaders such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, who supported the war but who now claims that its conduct has been disastrous. What they mean, by implication, is that a Democratic president would do better than George W. Bush and win the war.

Reid’s new position, however, means that even a Democratic president wouldn’t be able to ensure a U.S. victory in Iraq. For him, Iraq is irretrievably lost.

Some antiwar analysts have praised Reid for what they term “his clarity of perception.” A closer examination, however, would show that Reid might have added to the confusion that has plagued his party over the issue from the start.

Because all wars have winners and losers, Reid, having identified America as the loser, is required to name the winner. This Reid cannot do.

The reason is that, whichever way one looks at the situation, America and its Iraqi allies remain the only objective victors in this war.

Amir Taheri in the New York Post

Read it all here. It is a different view to say that under competent management, Iraq is a war that can be won. What Harry Reid is saying is that there is no way anyone can manage a successful end to the war in Iraq.  He asks the question of who the winner of the war is…if the United States has truly lost it, and there doesn’t seem to be one at this point. This won’t always be the case if the Democrats succeed in ending our involvement in Iraq.

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it’s easy to understand why the united states would be cautious in trusting the iraqis. one wrong decision could put more american lives at risk. however, i wonder whether we have been missing opportunities to keep the iraqis who don’t support the insurgents from switching sides. that’s one conclusion to be drawn from this new yorker piece. the writer, george packer, believes that there is more that we could have done, and that there is more we could do to support the iraqis who have proven themselves to be trustworthy allies in our combined struggle against the insurgents. he makes a strong argument, and it only reinforces the belief that iraq is far more complex than the bush administration expected it to be.

there is one particular part of his article that i found interesting — where mr. packer asks the iraqis he’s interviewing what they expected when the americans took over in iraq.

Whenever I asked Iraqis what kind of government they had wanted to replace Saddam’s regime, I got the same answer: they had never given it any thought. They just assumed that the Americans would bring the right people, and the country would blossom with freedom, prosperity, consumer goods, travel opportunities. In this, they mirrored the wishful thinking of American officials and neoconservative intellectuals who failed to plan for trouble. Almost no Iraqi claimed to have anticipated videos of beheadings, or Moqtada al-Sadr, or the terrifying question “Are you Sunni or Shia?” Least of all did they imagine that America would make so many mistakes, and persist in those mistakes to the point that even fair-minded Iraqis wondered about ulterior motives. In retrospect, the blind faith that many Iraqis displayed in themselves and in America seems naïve. But, now that Iraq’s demise is increasingly regarded as foreordained, it’s worth recalling the optimism among Iraqis four years ago.

both sides had the same optimism at the beginning of this process. iraq’s future is still in doubt, and i don’t think that anyone can say with certainty how this whole thing will play out in the long run. there is still a possibility that iraq could be stabilized, but i’m not sure that the american people have the patience to wait for that to happen. there are some positive signs from the current surge, but it may not be enough to keep the politicians from deciding how our involvement in iraq will end.

the plame game act II

valerie plame wilson was outed as a CIA agent way before richard armitage and scooter libby got involved in this mess. the original claim didn’t come just from the bush administration, but also from the media.

andy mccarthy(nro):

Specifically, she was exposed by a Russian spy in the early 1990s. Thereafter, the CIA itself “inadvertently” compromised Plame by not taking appropriate measures to safeguard classified documents that the Agency routed to the Swiss embassy in Havana. According to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, “the documents were supposed to be sealed from the Cuban government, but [unidentified U.S.] intelligence officials said the Cubans read the classified material and learned the secrets contained in them.”

As I wrote here nearly two years ago, this is not my claim. It is the contention made in a 2005 brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit by the Times along with ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, AP, Newsweek, Reuters America, the Washington Post, the Tribune Company (which publishes the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, among other papers), and the White House Correspondents (the organization which represents the White House press corps in its dealings with the executive branch). The mainstream media made the contention in an attempt to quash subpoenas issued to journalists — the argument being that if Mrs. Wilson’s cover had already been blown, there could have been no crime when an administration official (who we now know to be Richard Armitage, not Scooter Libby) leaked her identity to journalist Robert Novak, and thus there was no need to compel reporters to reveal their sources.

read the rest here.

to find valerie and joe credible, you would have to totally discredit the findings of the senate intelligence committee. they concluded that instead of debunking the claim of iraq’s possible yellowcake purchases, joe wilson’s report actually supported that claim. the evidence was also there that, despite what plame and wilson say, she did recommend him for the niger trip. joe wilson has lied from the very beginning, so it’s hard to believe anything he says. he’s a hero on the left for opposing the iraq war, but he’s not someone who can make a convincing case that the american people were intentionally misled by the bush administration to get us into war with iraq.

as i’ve said before, if the left wants to make that case, joe wilson’s not the right guy to champion that cause.

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not so fast

for those who would like to characterize tony blair’s withdrawal of british troops from basra as an admission that he was wrong about iraq, here’s an opposing point of view.

gerald baker:

The first point to note, is that, as the prime minister himself said in his statement to the House of Commons, the British troop presence in Iraq – unlike the US – has been on a steady downward trajectory since the initial phase of the war ended in May 2003. At one point total UK military personnel in the region numbered close to 40,000. By the end of 2004, the number stationed in the UK-command sector of Iraq – around Basra in the southeast of the country – was just over 9,000. Two years ago it was reduced to the current level of roughly 7,100. With yesterday’s announcement , the new total will be about 5,500.

This is, obviously, well below the 150,000-plus troops the US will have in Iraq once the new counter-insurgency strategy is fully under way but it is still a long way ahead of the next largest contingent of the coalition, Poland at around 2,000. It hardly represents a retreat or a surrender, still less an abandonment of the US.

more at real clear politics. the brits have been withdrawing troops without anyone noticing it for years now. this is nothing new, and it doesn’t represent a policy shift by the blair government. mr. baker goes on to argue that the basra mission was a different challenge than securing baghdad, and the british troops experienced some success in stablizing that area. that’s good news. there’s still more work to do, of course, but we should give credit to the brits for the work they have done in iraq.

he also mentions that the withdrawal frees up more manpower to continue the struggle against the taliban in afghanistan.  somehow afghanistan has become the forgotten battleground. iraq gets all the headlines, but there are still battles to be won in afghanistan.  we need to finish what we started there.


questions and debate

we are still not having an honest debate about iraq. why is it that we cannot, even now, thoughtfully engage the arguments for and against bush’s troop surge without accusing one side or the other of trying to gain political advantage? being against the war is a popular position to take, so it is neither brave nor courageous to parrot the poll-driven opinion of others. democrats and those few republicans who have come out against this troop surge can both be accused of trying to gain political advantage by supporting their various non-binding resolutions, and there’s a strong case that could be made for that point of view. we need to get beyond these accusations and have the iraq debate based on a full understanding of the consequences of what we choose to do next in iraq.

democrats are trying their hardest to oppose the war in iraq without taking any steps to end our involvement there. they seem to believe that this is what the american people voted for.  the democrats are misinterpreting the message that was sent in November. the message was that we wanted a plan to win, and that we didn’t believe the current course was headed toward that goal. nowhere in all the votes cast did I see a mandate for de-funding the war. the american people weren’t close to suggesting that the democrats should oppose a troop surge that could be an important measure to stabilize Baghdad, as well as being another step toward the withdrawal of our troops from iraq.

in order to call for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from iraq, several questions have to be asked. those who take this position have to realistically deal with the consequences of taking this action. if iraq degrades into more of a bloody mess than they believe it already is, what then? do we then send troops back into iraq, or do we leave iraq to fend for itself? if so, then it would make more sense to support the surge and to give it a fair chance to work before completely throwing the iraqis to the sectarian wolves.

some examples from history might suggest that we should give the surge a chance to work before completely abandoning the iraq project.

In 1973, a heavily Democratic Congress voted to prohibit U.S. air support for Cambodia’s pro-American army, then desperately fending off the communist Khmer Rouge insurgents. In early 1975, Congress cut off all U.S. military aid for Cambodia.

Predictably, Cambodian government forces were soon defeated by the Khmer Rouge, then backed by Communist China and North Vietnam.

What followed was one of the great horrors of the 20th century – the genocidal slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of 2 million Cambodians, roughly 40 percent of Cambodia’s population.

In 1974-75, an even more heavily Democratic Congress drastically cut U.S. military and economic assistance to our ally South Vietnam, even as the Soviet Union was illegally flooding North Vietnam with heavy weapons. The subsequent North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam overran our ally, took Saigon, and promptly imposed a Stalinist dictatorship that resulted in the deaths and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese.

it’s easy to understand why the democrats are where they are with this war. it has nothing to do with sympathy for terrorists. democrats aren’t evil. they just don’t see the point in supporting a mission that they believe has already been doomed to fail. that’s a legitimate position to take, and it has quite a bit of popular support in the drive-by media and in the public at large. at this point, the only fingers of blame being pointed are at our commander-in-chief, and to a lesser degree, hillary clinton. the democrats don’t want to take any responsibility for this war. they don’t want this war to be their problem, because after all, bush started it, right?

Continue reading

who said this?

fire up the delorean and check out this blast from the past.

The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq’s history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life.

My Administration has pursued, and will continue to pursue, these objectives through active application of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership.

yes, that was the golden child of the left, president bill clinton, in a 1998 statement on H.R. 4655, also known as the “iraq liberation act”.  so even as far back as 1998, there was support for regime change in iraq. president clinton said nothing different than some of bush 43’s past statements. president clinton came out in favor of freedom for the iraqis, believed that it was possible regardless of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, and even suggested that iraq’s leadership needed to change. it’s easy to question whether clinton did this out of political calculation instead of genuine belief that saddam was a threat.  i’m giving him the benefit of the doubt in the case, since he ordered U.S. strikes on iraqi military and security targets on december 18th, 1998. it should be a serious consideration for any US president to order military strikes, and i would hope that the same was true back then.

there have been previous posts by me and by other bloggers documenting past statements by democrats which show that this “bush tricked me” meme is absolute nonsense.  hillary shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this line. the right doesn’t buy it. neither does the left.

i suppose that senator clinton could be forgiven for not believing anything her husband had previously said or written about iraq, but that’s not what she said to codepink in 2003. (yes, i know it’s a link to rush limbaugh’s website…i would be happy to provide an alternate link if i had one.)

There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm’s way, and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm. And I have absolutely no belief that he will. I have to say that this is something I have followed for more than a decade. If he were serious about disarming, he would have been much more forthcoming. I ended up voting for the resolution after carefully reviewing the information, intelligence that I had available, talking with people whose opinions I trusted, trying to discount political or other factors that I didn’t believe should be in any way a part of this decision. I would love to agree with you, but I can’t, based on my own understanding and assessment of the situation.

she did her own homework.  she consulted with people she trusted. she carefully reviewed the information.  if she got it wrong, i don’t see how she can blame bush for that.  besides, we are in a different place now in the iraq debate.  second-guessing isn’t useful to the current debate on what to do next in iraq. maybe that’s the point for all these revisionist democrats. they want to keep dealing with the past so they can avoid dealing with the future.

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cause confused

it’s fun to mock the dimbulbs who are usually the voices of the anti-war protests. cindy sheehan, jane fonda, the code pink(os), various hollywood celebs like sean penn, and clueless politicians like dennis kucinich (who once proposed a department of peace)…all of these people have credibility problems because of their statements about our president and about this country. stupid protest chants, over-the-top-signs, and various weirdness are all part of their exercise of our right to free speech. so bully for them.  they have had their say.  now it is our turn to speak our minds, and reject this image that the left wants to paint of the american people and their elected president.

we are not imperialists.  we are not fascists.  those who would say so are blinded by hatred and rage for president bush, and they are no longer able to think rationally about what should happen next in iraq. the anti-war crowd doesn’t really want to know what this country would look like if it were ruled by a dictator who would never be subject to a vote on his job performance.  they don’t want to know what it would be like trying to exercise their freedom of speech in a place where you could lose limbs if you ticked off the wrong person. 

i do not deny that there are valid reasons to oppose the iraq war. we should be able to have this discussion in a calm, rational manner without trying to score political points and without throwing out wild unsubstantiated accusations about the character of this country and about our president. can’t we disagree with the president’s policies without impugning the man’s character? apparently that’s too much to ask from these anti-war protestors.

no surrender

you can agree or disagree with the specifics of the president’s plan for iraq that he explained to us last night. it’s hard to say whether this will work or not, but i have confidence that we will hold up our end of the deal, at least as long as president bush is in office. the rest is up to the iraqis.  that is the strength and the weakness of this plan. it is time for some hard choices to be made by the iraqis, and i’m not sure their government has the courage and political will to make those decisions. i hope i’m wrong about that. even though i want this plan to succeed, there’s only so much we can do in supporting the iraqi government. it’s easy for us to insist that the iraqis should get past old sectarian conflicts and move forward together, but that hasn’t been their history. while i believe that sending more troops to iraq is the right thing to do, it is only part of a solution that must come with political and some economic concessions by the maliki government.

quite a few democrats (and several republicans) oppose the troop surge.  fair enough. there are convincing arguments to be made on both sides. there are some democrats, like ted kennedy for example, who actually propose de-funding this troop surge. talk is cheap. at least kennedy is actually acting on his convictions. that’s more than his democratic colleagues will do. cindy sheehan and her fellow anti-war pals will be sorely disappointed by the performance of the new democratic majority if they believe that anything serious will get done about bringing the troops home now.  oh sure, there will probably be investigations and threats.  as far as voting to bring the troops home now, or any proposal to withhold funds for reinforcements for the military men and women already in iraq — the democrats are all hat and no cattle.  it won’t happen.

now that the president has presented his plan, it’s the democrats’ turn. the american people gave them an opportunity to provide leadership and a new direction in iraq, and they don’t even put it at the top of their list of priorities, instead focusing on prescription drugs and the minimum wage.  the consequences of losing iraq are more serious than a black mark on president bush’s legacy.  i hope the democrats understand this, and that they will act in the best interests of our country when considering what’s next for iraq.


saddam’s death

cnn has the story and the video of his execution here(with a graphic content warning) if you really want to see it.

andy mccarthy at NRO:

This is a solemn, important moment. It’s not a joyous one. An evil man deserved to die. His elimination was necessary — not close to sufficient, but necessary — for achieving, over time, a semblance civilized stability in Iraq. The celebration in the streets, though, the dancing and firing guns in the air, does not augur well for that achievement.

This wasn’t victory. It didn’t end suffering. It was, in the heat of a war that has actually gotten more vicious and more uncertain since Saddam’s capture three years ago, the carrying out of an essential but unpleasant duty. It marginally enhances Iraq’s propects, and ours. But Saddam’s death (as opposed to his deposing) has no impact whatsoever on the deep dysfunction and hatred that is rending what passes for Iraqi society. The unbridled display of dancing and shooting says more about that than the death of one man — monstrous though he was — who has been imprisoned for three years.

Saddam’s death is a marker worth observing. It is not something to go up in a balloon over.

saddam’s death won’t heal all wounds he inflicted on his victims, but it will be some measure of justice for them. it was primarily a victory for the iraqi people, not for the united states government. we can breathe a sigh of relief that saddam is gone, and that he will not return to power. that is the only guarantee we have. we can’t guarantee that saddam loyalists will now join the political process and help stabilize iraq’s new government. i hope that they will, but deep ethnic and religious divisions among the iraqi people can’t be bridged without a struggle, even with the death of a dictator.

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that is the best way to describe the majority of the baker/hamilton commission (ISG) report. it is long on analysis, and short on workable solutions. full text here(pdf). the most delusional part of this report is the part where the authors insist that neighboring countries such as iran and syria really do want a stable iraq. not only that, but if the united states would just sit down with them and talk to them, they would be willing to help us with stabilizing iraq.

look at recommendation 12 for example. it says:

The United States and the Support Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the merit of such contributions as the following:

• Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extent possible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrols on the border. Doing so will help stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.
• Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis.
• Syria can increase its political and economic cooperation with Iraq.

i can tell you without help from any commission how well this would work. concessions are only given when the opposition is in a position of strength, like the united states was after the initial invasion of iraq. that’s not where we are now.

even though the ISG acknowledges to some degree that iran is causing some of the instability, it still insists that iran could be persuaded to help us.

look at these recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 10: The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany.

brilliant. great idea. more talking and listening, but no effective threats of punishments or sanctions. that will show mahmoud ahmadinejad who’s boss.

RECOMMENDATION 11: Diplomatic efforts within the Support Group should seek to persuade Iran that it should take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq.
Among steps Iran could usefully take are the following:
• Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.
• Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government.
• Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation.
• Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq.

again, what does iran get out of the deal? concessions from the rest of the international community? acceptance of its nuclear ambitions? there would be a heavy price to be paid by the rest of the world to get iran’s help with iraq. the same is true with syria.

do we want to do what it would require to get the help of these two countries? that would be very unwise. it is a game we can’t afford to play. surrender is never is a good solution.


Half Baked – NRO editorial
Blogging the Release of the Baker Commission Report’s Recommendations– vital perspective (h/t atlas)
Asking for chaos –frederick kagan (nydn)
Grading the Report— dean barnett (townhall)

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