Not Good Enough
In an interesting article today, Jonah Goldberg of National Review makes his case that Bush's performance in Iraq is Good Enough
. He provides a list of points where he agrees that Iraq is definitely having problems. But after doing so, he then goes on to say that these points aren't fundamental; they're correct, but they're essentially nitpicking, missing the bigger point. Which for Mr. Goldberg is that Bush is "going on [the] offense" and "taking the fight to them [the Islamists]". In other words, sure Bush has made mistakes, but he's actually been principled throughout, and that's what matters.
Give me a break! Well, let me rescind that. Mr. Goldberg is right, Bush has been principled - principled in the sacrifice of American lives and American interests. In the spirit of "fair use", I'm going to list Mr. Goldberg's "points" (and his justifications why each isn't as bad as one might think), along with why they really are bad:
1. Problem - Iraq is a mess.
Justification - Iraq would be a mess today no matter what steps Bush took. It would be a different mess, but a mess nonetheless. Picking an arbitrary date and saying "It's a mess now, therefore it wasn't worth it" is silly, and could be done to every major enterprise ever undertaken, from the building of the pyramids to putting men on the moon.
It is not a fait accompli
that Iraq is a mess today. Iraq is a mess today because
of what Bush has done there. His zeal for fighting a "compassionate" war is as absurd as it is reprehensible. On the contrary, I believe Iraq would not be the quagmire it is today if we had actually fought the "war" with victory
in mind. If we had shown strength and resolve continuously, and slaughtered
any opposition, Iraq would be stable, and the Iranians would be on notice that they were next if they did not rapidly change their posture. "It's a mess now, therefore it wasn't worth it" is
silly; but it's beyond ridiculous to admit something's a mess and then ignore and
continue the very behavior that got one into the mess in the first place.
2. Problem - The failure to find WMDs is the material evidence (or lack thereof) necessary to make this the worst intelligence blunder since Pearl Harbor.
Justification - Bush was hardly alone in believing there were WMDs, and given the convictions of so many over such a long period, he erred on the right side. His line about not being able to put his trust in a madman may get tedious, but it's true.
This I agree with in some ways. Bush was right to say he couldn't put his trust in a madman - but what are we to think of our President when he then puts his trust in the madmen in Iran and North Korea, both of whom are on the brink of developing actual nuclear weapons! More to the point, Saddam (and every other dictator) is
a weapon of mass destruction - they are the creatures that unleash wars in this world.
3. Problem - It was a heartbreaking mistake to allow the looting of Iraq to take place under the tacitly approving gaze of American forces.
Justification - Um...let's skip this one.
This should have been the justification for every point, but I will give credit to Mr. Goldberg for not trying to rationalize this pathetic "gesture". And let's be frank - it wasn't a "tacitly approving" gaze, it was more like a "Step right up!". This falls under the category of Bush's continuous appeasement and cowardice. Any looter should have been shot dead
on the spot - this would have put an end to outlaw behavior, and given pause to those foolish enough to want to stop us. If they'll shoot thieves, what are they going to do to us if we try to fight....
4. Problem - It was a miscalculation in retrospect not to keep the Iraqi army on the payroll and confine them to their barracks.
Justification - Historically, armies are a hindrance to democracy and reform in the Middle East. In Iraq, the army was a source of repression. If we kept the army intact, we might have created a rival power structure that would hinder progress. And de-Baathification would have taken a huge blow.
Ridiculous! This is a war, god dammit. While I don't have a good strategic answer to this one, in principle I do: Anyone who bears arms against the US will be killed. Not arrested, not thrown in jail, not put on trial. Summary execution. If
one formation (or whatever the "unit" is called) were brazen enough to bare arms against us, we would only have to bomb them into oblivion, even if they were holed up in a kindergarten. That would have put down any future insurgency from the army.
5. Problem - Whatever the truth of the Chalabi weirdness, the notion that he would or could be the first president of a Democratic Iraq now appears naïve.
Justification - Ummmm. Skip.
Yes. Chalabi was "Pie in the sky", but then again so is pretty much everything we've done in Iraq. A war means that people will die, in large numbers if necessary. The only choice a free country has is: which people, our soldiers or enemy nationals? Any patriot knows the right answer to that one.
6. Problem - Abu Ghraib was, at minimum, a preventable public-relations disaster.
Justification - Abu Ghraib was terrible. It was also isolated and policed by the military before the press got wind of it. These things happen in war; the question is, How do the responsible institutions respond? Oh, and making someone wear panties on his head isn't the same as cutting off his head.
I definitely agree with the last point. As I told my wife, if the worst
thing that ever happens to me in my life is that I have so simulate oral sex on another man or wear panties on my head or form a naked male pyramid, I will count myself extremely lucky. More seriously, Abu Ghraib wasn't terrible, unless our soldiers were acting against US policy. But if our policy was an attempt to save American
soldiers lives, then I say have at it - use any
means necessary to protect our boys.
7. Problem - We haven't devoted enough money and other resources to security in Iraq. Indeed, the pace of spending in general has been borderline scandalous.
Justification - Ummm...
Like so many other functions of government, it isn't the amount of money you spend, it's the nature of the policies you implement. And like so many other intellectually bankrupt programs, the nature of our battle in Iraq is flawed at the very inception. Security in Iraq is not a function of spending - it's a function of our will and resolve to achieve victory
. This means killing whoever we have to to stop the insurgency, starting with the installation of a new parking lot where Fallujah used to be. Strength and resolve served us well in the Civil War and in World War II - we would do well to study the good examples of Generals Sherman and Patton, both of whom exemplified those qualities admirably.
8. Problem - The war has cost us dearly in the eyes of many nations around the world.
Justification - Many of the nations that hate us for Iraq hated us anyway. The myth oft-repeated by Jim Carville and others that America was beloved by the world until the Iraq war or George Bush is hogwash. Anti-Americanism in France, in Greece, throughout the third world has been raging for a long time and actually increased with the defeat of Communism and on Bill Clinton's watch. That's not to say it was Clinton's fault in any significant way. It was merely a fact of life. Iraq is an excuse for America-bashing among nations that clearly couldn't be counted on no matter who was in the Oval Office.
All of the above is true, so why don't we stop pussy-footing it and start squashing insurgents. Our weakness and vacillation in the face of Al Sadr and Zarqawi only invites more taunts, and confirms to the world that Bin Ladin was right - the US is a paper tiger.
9. Problem - Iran and North Korea have gotten to be bigger problems since the war.
Justification - What would the critics have Bush do? They denounced the invasion of Iraq even though that was easy, cost very few lives, and had substantial backing under international law. Similar actions against Iran or North Korea would cost tens of thousands of lives, would have no support from the U.N., and wouldn't achieve much. Meanwhile, they denounce our policy of letting our European allies take the lead with Iran and our multilateral diplomacy with North Korea.
This is really the crux of the matter. Iran and (then) North Korea are very big problems - but they were huge problems even before Iraq. Iran has been a problem since 1979, and our weakness since Carter has only promoted and enlarged the very dangerous scenario we're in now. The same can be said for North Korea, only we've been weak for about 30 years longer there. What would I have Bush do? I'd have him defend me, god dammit. Kill off the people who really threaten me, the Mullahs of Iran and the Communist thugs. Both of those nations present a "clear and present danger" (to borrow the oft quoted phrase) to the US. Kim Jong Il at least wants to live on earth though; the Mullahs have no compunctions about joining Allah early, especially via a nuclear warhead. Besides, if we're going to fight a war on (Islamic) terror, doesn't it make sense to fight the source of the cancer in Teheran, and not the microscopic tumor in Baghdad? Of course, we'd have to first admit that we have (Islamic) cancer, before we could seek treatment.
10. Problem - Bush has not done a very good job of communicating with the American people when it comes to the progress of the war.
Justification - Anything Bush says is automatically ridiculed by a press scandalously hostile to him. Besides, it seems the American people get what he's talking about. What bothers a lot of critics is that Bush isn't giving war-room briefings to bloggers.
Can you really blame the press for ridiculing Bush's speaking abilities - I think they're probably the poorest of any president we've every had (definitely in my lifetime). But really, it's hard to communicate about something that doesn't exist (i.e., it's hard to fabricate progress when fundamentally it isn't
11. Problem - The situation in Fallujah is particularly bad.
Justification - There are no good answers to Fallujah. Though those who ridicule Bush for being too quick to use force, need to account for the fact that he's actually being quite, um, sensitive.
Fallujah is an excellent metaphor for the war on terror. Bush and his cronies want to have their cake and eat it too; kill the terrorists while pretending like they're crazy instead of extremely devout Muslims. Leaving aside the self-contradictory phrase "there are no good answers", the problem is not Bush being too quick, but too damned slow and as Mr. Goldberg so eloquently put it, sensitive
. Sensitivity in war is incompatible with victory and with protecting our soldiers.
12. Problem - Sadr should have been killed a long time ago.
Justification - If Bush killed Sadr, Sadr would overnight become a peace-loving martyr in the rhetoric of Katrina vanden Heuvel, Dan Rather, and the United Nations Security Council.
He might have become a martyr, but he definitely would have stopped being a threat to the US. Al Sadr is particularly embarrassing for us because he has defiantly challenged the US twice now, and walked away each time the victor. The result? Al Sadr can legitimately claim that he has stood up to the infidels, and won. Look how weak they are, he would say. He has gained a prestige and notoriety that he otherwise would never have a achieved if we had simply blown him up at the start of operations in April 2004. Now he has grown in stature, due entirely to our own unwillingness to kill him. It still isn't too late, though. Simply assassinating him would certainly bring condemnation upon us, but the fickle media would quickly become distracted a week later (look at how Israel assassinated Sheik Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas).
Mr. Goldberg does go on to make several good points as he concludes the article, especially his identification that while we could count on the Soviets to be rational during the cold war (because they wanted to live), we have no such luxuries with the Islamic radicals (because, as Bin Laden said, they love death like we love life). The problem is that Mr. Goldberg believes that Bush represents the kind of offensive we need to fight these fundamentalists. But as I have stated previously, Bush is a hindrance in the war on Islamic terror, not an asset.
- First, Bush is a Christian fundamentalist, which essentially means that he and people we are fighting agree in principle. They agree on forcing religion upon others through force, and only quibble over the details of which religion will be enforced
- Second, Bush has repeatedly shown that he is both unwilling and unable to use the degree of force necessary to achieve victory.
In summing up, Mr. Goldberg admits that Bush isn't ideal, and that he'd vote for a better commander in chief if
that were the choice. Kerry certainly is no ideal, but if we are going to compromise and fight a sensitive war, it is better to do so honestly
, as John Kerry would do, that dishonestly
, as Bush is now doing. Bush accepts the acclaim for being a decisive president, while in reality the majority of his choices are no different than what Mr. Kerry would have probably made in his place. More importantly, therefore, Bush must be opposed because of his domestic policies. He seeks to entrench religion into our government in a fundamental way. As bad as John Kerry is, he will not do this. Better to keep our secular system of government, and wait for a better, secular republican in 2008.
POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:18 AM