A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Keeping My Promise To The Anchoress: UPDATED.

I have promised the Anchoress to refrain from being overly contentious in her comment pages in consideration of her still delicate health and her personal weariness. So when she publishes things as provocative as this, I will confine my activity to merely tracking back:

A Brilliant Analogy

Via one Michael Geer writing in The American Thinker:

"What the Left is howling for is that, exactly. The United States determined that there was no choice but to put this patient on the table and open him up for a liver transplant. His liver had failed and his body become fatally toxic to him and everyone else. He was so toxic he was gangrenous. Now that we have the patient open and stabilized and are finishing the first steps of the grueling process of transplant, the Left is in a rage that we don’t walk away and leave the GD patient on the table, unfinished and exposed, the gaping wounds of surgery open and untended. They say, let this guy finish the job himself. Get outta there.

"Horrifying. Simply horrifying."

Succinct and concise and sensible....Unfortunately, we’re all preaching to the choir-the folks who need to read these things won’t.

I also am beginning to wonder if we shouldn't be writing less and reading more. Since there is now an official publication of our "plan" for victory in Iraq, maybe we ought to read that, or at least it's Executive Summary, rather than our favorite political commentators.

And, once we have read it, maybe we ought to stop talking in analogies and metaphors like liver transplant surgery and address the actual fighting and nation building that we have undertaken.

If we do read the Victory Plan, I think that we need to ask the following hard and non-metaphorical questions:

Does the it propose doing anything materially different than we have been doing for nearly three years now?

It seems to me that the answer to this question is no.

Is the Victory Plan correct in assuming that that the three components of victory it identifies--"security, politics, and economic reform" are symmetrical and relatively independent from one another?

This is highly important. The Victory Plan describes the sum total of our success in Iraq as follows:

Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of Iraq's neglected infrastructure, and the ongoing training and equipping of Iraq's security forces.

Absolutely nothing in this list is in any way a "security" success. None of it in even meets the objectives that the Victory Plan itself sets out for Iraqi security. On that score, we are starting from square one. The absolute best you can say is that these "successes" might someday lead to a security success.

The real case for doing something different in Iraq is that security, politics, and economic reform are not symmetrical--that successful security must be established first for any other progress to be lasting and meaningful.

By that standard, it seems to me, no change at all in policy is clearly problematic. No tangible ground in the area of security has been gained by what we have been doing.

This blunt and intractible fact simply cannot be argued away. And the attempt by the Victory Plan to argue it away is utterly silly.

The plan proposes "progress standards" for security such as the number of "intelligence tips" obtained and the number of "operations conducted". It goes on to assert that such things are of more "strategic importance" than the actual number of bombings.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that the point of the intelligence tips and the military operations is to diminish the bombings.

Until the bombings diminish there is no such thing as security success in Iraq. Until there is security success there is no such thing as lasting political or ecomomic success either.

The Victory Plan points out something fundamentally true that sounds very hopeful:

The terrorists, Saddamists, and rejectionists do not have the manpower or firepower to achieve a military victory over the Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. They can win only if we surrender.

But we can lose if we cannot stop the bombings. We lose if all we can accomplish is a security stalemate. That is all that we have really accomplished in Iraq up to now. Nothing else we build there will last, unless we can stop the bombings. What we have done up to now simply has not done this, and there is no reason to believe that continuing to do the same thing will do this.

If you must have a medical metaphor, my dear Anchoress, I would suggest that our intrepid team of surgeons are extracting the tumor from one lung, leaving the tumor in the other lung, and then declaring the patient to be on the road to recovery.


Robert Charles over at The Counterterrorism Blog puts his finger on a highly significant part of the problem:

Police, Not Armies, Stop Terrorism

Armies -- ours and those we train -- are for combat, immediate post-combat stabilization, and mission completion, where the mission is identifiable and defined by a sound strategy, [emphasis mine--ed.] replete with benchmarks toward mission completion. Yes, benchmarks can shift in response to changes in the security environment, but not indefinitely. That is why we train democracy-stabilizing police forces. Not just armies.....The occupying army cannot stay forever, and the re-trained or re-acculturated indigenous army can not be expected -- and should not be expected or pre-positioned -- to sustain a viable demcoracy.

Absolutely nothing in the Victory Plan addresses the issue of an Iraqi police.

In addition, the best summary I have read of how we have reached the utter mess we now face was written a couple of weeks back by John Robb, of Global Guerillas:


The decline in US moral cohesion is a natural consequence of the isolation of US decision makers from the external reference environment. Instead of making connections, we severed them (for a complete analysis of why this occurred, read my earlier brief on "Boyd on al Qaeda's Grand Strategy"). This isolation (across mental, physical, and moral vectors) drove:

Bad decision making. The willingness to accept flawed intelligence on Iraq's WMD capabilities. The failure to stop the looting after the invasion. The decision to disband the Iraqi military. The failure to send enough troops.

Ad hoc planning and strategy development. The lack of a plan to win the peace in the Iraq. The plethora of different military plans since then: build Sunni militias (Fallujah), stability for elections and a political solutions, aggressive counter-insurgent sweeps, clear-and-hold (oil-spots), etc.

False or corrupt internal dialogues. An internal: Are you with us or against us? Democracy throughout the Middle East was the real goal of the US invasion. This is another Vietnam.

Yes, they have made it into another Vietnam, probably because, as Chickenhawks, they never really understood the global scope and the real causes of our failures in Southeast Asia.

I will put it less politely and more succinctly than John Robb. The President, Maid Condoleeza, Little Colin, Will Cheney and all his Merry Men, have conducted this war from LaLa Land. And they are still doing it:

To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief".

Idiots. Utter rhetoric sodden idiots.


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