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Warren Graham's Blog

Postings by Warren on a variety of timely and (hopefully) interesting topics

Monday, January 29, 2007



IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED….SURRENDER!


Let me start, lest I be accused of being utterly out of touch with reality, by acknowledging that the Bush Administration has made mistakes, many and grievous, in its prosecution of the Iraq War. Chief among these—and this is, by no means, intended as an exhaustive list—is the intelligence failure concerning WMD, the elimination, top to bottom, of Ba’ath Party functionaries (the only people who knew how to do ANYTHING in Iraq), the total misunderstanding (or non-understanding) of the ancient hatred between Sunni and Shiite factions and Kurds, the unwillingness of rank and file Iraqis to embrace Western-style secular democratic values, the lack of preparedness of our military to serve as a police force, as opposed to a fighting force, and generally inadequate military planning, in trying to fight what has proven to be a difficult war “on the cheap.”

Having said all that, and further conceding that reasonable minds may differ (and do) about the wisdom and efficacy of having placed our armed forces in Iraq in the first instance, the nauseating spectacle of a rush by denizens of both political parties to surrender is a national disgrace, not to mention horrendous and disastrous policy.

Generally speaking, the arguments against having made the choice to invade Iraq (as it was articulated at the time of the national debate, NOT with the convenience and benefit of hindsight), is that there was insufficient evidence of an imminent threat to the U.S., and that the war against terror was properly venued in Afghanistan, and not in Iraq. Fair enough. It should be pointed out, though, that the intelligence failure was shared by the intelligence services of our European Allies and Israel, and that the canard that the President lied about WMD, knowing all the while that Saddam did not possess them, is simply unsupported by any credible evidence (save the rantings of the far left, for those true believers who find rantings to be sufficient to the task).

It has been argued, with some merit, I think, that the real reason we went into Iraq (NOT the other lefty mantras about controlling the oil supply or avenging Bush Sr.’s brush with death at the hands of Saddam hirelings), was at the instance of the so-called “neocons” who had the President’s ear, and who proposed, by instilling a democracy in Iraq, to reinvent the reality that is the Middle East. The counter argument to that neocon mindset, I believe, is that Western-style secular democracy is not a value which can or ever will be embraced in a part of the World which has always been defined either by tribal warfare, strong-man dictatorship or rule of the mullahs. It is, say the critics of the “neocons” no accident that no democracy has ever taken root on its own in that region, except in the case of Israel which is, of course, sui generis, for a variety of reasons. The WMD argument, they go on to say, was a smokescreen to launch an invasion proving the old adage that “war is just politics by another means,” i.e., that it was motivated entirely by a policy of realpolitik. As viscerally satisfying as it was to this author to have removed Saddam and his subordinate thugs from power, I cannot, in fairness, belittle this argument, because I believe it to be largely credible or, at a very minimum, plausible. And while some Americans might well have, nevertheless, supported this military adventure on the basis of the “redrawing of the map” theory, most would probably have not. So WMD, while not a lie, was, perhaps, an excuse.

So much for history. But what now? Even if one concedes that the commencement of this War was misguided and mismanaged, in many and varied respects, ever since, we must consider the tragic, yet painfully obvious consequences of capitulation.

Democrats, having trounced the Republicans in the recent election, widely billed as a referendum on Iraq, are praying that the collective amnesia of the public will cause it to forget that many Democrats voted with Bush and continued to side with him until the War became difficult and less popular. Worse still is the disgusting “rats fleeing from a sinking ship” conduct of many Republicans, who have not only distanced themselves from the Administration, but try to avoid calling themselves Republicans and now, with the benefit of several years experience, are recommending either prompt, or specifically timed withdrawal from Iraq.

These, my friends, are the politics of surrender. On the Democratic side, the motivation is obvious and transparent: that party has won, in spades, a recent election, and its leadership feels itself empowered. Some, especially those on the left, are so driven by blind fury at previous Republican successes (especially in 2000 and 2004) and poisonous hatred for George Bush, that consideration of U.S. national interests are but a secondary consideration to the sweet music of his vilification. Many of those who urge either immediate withdrawal or a date certain for bringing the troops home cannot possibly be so blind or stupid as to think that such action will not have far-reaching horrific implications for American prestige in the World and our ability to influence international affairs; the only rational conclusion, therefore, is that they must surely be indifferent. Their avowed argument that Iraq has become “another Vietnam”-- surely the tiredest of tired clichés-- is simply unsupportable. That was a different war, fought for different reasons and motivated by highly attenuated foreign policy considerations. There is no doubt (or should be none) among sentient human beings, with any understanding of what has been happening for the past decade, what conclusion our Islamic fascist enemies and the forces of international terrorism will draw from such an ignominious conclusion to this affair.

Amongst Republicans, the impetus by some of them to flee from an Administration on the ropes is not only reprehensible as a matter of principle and loyalty; it will avail them nothing. Indeed, history has shown us time and again that there is nobody so unelectable as a Republican posing as a Democrat. Ronald Reagan, love him or hate him, owed his success to the fact that he never stopped being…well, Ronald Reagan, and unabashedly so. Trying to escape from the current unpopularity of the President’s policies will show them up to the public as nothing more than the hypocrites they are. The consequence of this, of course, is that the election debacle of 2006 will prove a harbinger of worse times yet to come for the GOP.

It may be that, in time, it becomes evident that Iraq neither wants, nor can achieve any kind of democracy. I do not believe that we can, as yet, draw that final conclusion, though the time for Iraqis to “step up to the plate” and prove otherwise is growing short.

The polls and recent election results seem to show that the American Public is, understandably, weary of this War and wishes to have it over. But does that mean that a majority of Americans support an action that amounts, in essence to surrender? I surely hope not. What is needed at this crucial moment in history is leadership. If the public cannot find it in our President, I, for one, hope that someone else with credibility (hopefully not someone from “talk-radio”) stands up and argues articulately for putting our national interest and security above facile isolationist rhetoric and the short term comfort of bringing our beloved young men and women home with the job half-done.

Those who hold World War II up as the only “justified war,” fought by the U.S. in the past century, and beset by no dissension or moral ambiguity, have conveniently forgotten that many voices, some quite prominent, including Charles Lindbergh and Joe Kennedy, were lifted in opposition to any intervention on behalf of the foes of Hitler, until those voices were drowned out in the national bloodlust prompted by Pearl Harbor. We have also forgotten that a mere four months before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, there were calls on Lincoln from the North (especially the “antiwar” factions in New York—how very little has changed!) to stop the bloodletting and sue for peace with the Confederacy. Now, in an age of instant television news and internet access (George Will once pointed out that, had the TV cameras been rolling at the Battle of Antietam, the Civil War would have ended in 1862, in a draw, in the face of public outrage at the carnage), we live in a society with an extremely short attention span, and no tolerance for pain whatsoever; especially disheartening in the face of a War in which very few, indeed, have been called upon to share in the sacrifice. Maybe, in fact, it is precisely this sense that the War is someone else’s problem and merely a pesky annoyance to most Americans, that explains our apparent national willingness to “pick up our marbles and go home.” This is a short-sighted and dangerous proposition. Our enemies are nothing, if not patient, and even worse, they are true believers in their cause. They know, or think they know, that the West has no stomach for sacrifice and no will to do what is necessary to prevail. It is my fervent hope that they mistake healthy, open democratic debate for weakness. But alas, sadly, they may ultimately prove to be right.

I think the time has come for us to ask ourselves a difficult and introspective question: What do WE believe in?

Reprint of Article in www.ezinearticle.com

Warren R. Graham
Copyright 2007

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