Sunday, October 31, 2004

Freefall

UPDATE: 10/31 @ 9:25 PM

Things just aren't working for us in Iraq. Newsweek reports (tip off: Kevin Drum) that we're in an even worse situation than has hither to been acknowledged. Quote:
"But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. 'Things are getting really bad,' a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. 'The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness.'
...
Washington has declared several times that the insurgency would soon be defeated or at least mostly neutralized. Senior officials made such statements when electricity was restored to its pre-occupation levels in 2003, when Saddam was captured in December, when sovereignty was handed over on June 28. Each time the insurgency has only grown. Now even military officials who are hopeful the insurgency can be defeated—or perhaps just reduced to a violent annoyance—say it will be a long haul no matter who is U.S. president.

We've got a mess on our hands, no doubt about it. And yet, inexplicably, some trust the man who caused the mess to get us out of it. Presumably, if Bush had a plan to fix Iraq, we'd have seen it by now. That Iraq is still mired in an insurgency, indeed, that the insurgency has only grown as time has passed, is a powerful indictment against the Bush administration.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner also runs with this issue for awhile. Specifically, he uses it to utterly dismantle the Chicago Boyz's (by way of Instapundit) claim that Bush has done a great job on this war. They write:

Now the one thing that strikes me about the military efforts to date is just how incredibly successful they've been, and how masterfully planned and executed they turned out to be. Not perfect, of course (You mean there's terrorists setting off explosives? Against Americans and their supporters? In the Middle East, no less? Say it isn't so!). But a lot of the toys that John Kerry voted against turned out to be damned useful in the War on Terror. I don't want to even think about how an Afghanistan operation with Vietnam-era technology and tactics would have gone for us - I think in that case we'd have been wishing for another Vietnam. And if you've ever cracked a history book, you'll realize that only 1200 deaths in a year and a half of invading a dictatorship, overthrowing its dictator, and fighting a chronic insurgency is astoundingly good news, especially when added to the fact that the long-predicted flood of refugees never materialized, the terrorists that Saddam's regime had nothing whatsoever to do with suddenly got extremely interested in the fate of Iraq . . . and Iraqis are still signing up to take on the battle for their country against these thugs and getting set to vote in their first-ever real election in a couple of months.

And the Commander-in-Chief at the helm during these amazing accomplishments is called incompetent? You've got to be kidding me.

Drezner notes that
"There is one point in this narrative on which I absolutely agree -- the observable costs of the insurgency in Iraq, measured in either men or material, is nowhere near the cost of what transpired in Vietnam. We're talking about differences by several orders of magnitude.

There is, of course, the question of unobservable costs -- and read Ambassador Peter Galbraith's disturbing account in the Boston Globe on that issue.

More importantly, there is the question of trend -- are things betting better or worse in Iraq over time? And here's where I part company with the above narrative."

He then quotes from the above Newsweek article to illustrate this point. The point that I think is relevant here is this. Whether or not Bush has done a good, or even remotely competent job of fighting this war goes beyond simple body counts. Whether or not we are "succeeding" in Iraq is a direct function of how likely it is that country is going to end up as a stable, functional democracy. If it becomes a new haven for terrrorists, then we are losing even if we don't incur a single new casualty. If it replaces its old dictator with a new dictator, we've failed even if we don't incur a single new casualty. The proper measure of Bush's policies in post-war Iraq is whether or not they've been facilitative of our goals for the region: Democratization and Anti-terrorism. The fact is, they haven't been. They haven't been because our hubris has turned the local population against us. They haven't because our spurning of offered international assistance has reinforced the perception that this is an imperial mission. They haven't because the interim government loses credibilty every time it identifies itself with the US. They haven't because increasingly, democrats in the region like Ayatollah Ali Sistani are viewing the US as an obstacle, rather than an aid, to democracy. They haven't because the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point where the National Intelligence Estimate foresees a reasonable chance that the country will fall into civil war. All of these issues are problems for which the Bush administration can, and must, be held culpable for.

3 comments:

BG said...

It's interesting to see the media speak so authoritatively about the conditions in Iraq when their press corp won't set foot outside the International Zone.

The 'insurgents' are winning in Iraq just like they won in Samara. The fact is, the majority of the Iraqi population would be happy to see Faluja wiped off the map. They understand that foreign fighters are desperately trying to incite a civil war. The Shia's and Kurds aren't taking the bait.

Are things bad? Of course they are. Does that mean we're losing? Not by a long shot. The question we must answer is, are we going tuck our tails in Clintonesqe cowardace ala Somalia or do we suck it up and finish the mission we set out to do?

If today's self appointed 'political/military expert' media pundits were reporting on the Battle of the Bulge, we would be hearing about how dismal a failure the whole invasion of Europe was and that we were in the midst of losing WW2.

If the so called media experts are to be believed, the Afghanistan 'quagmire' would still be evident today.

If you choose to believe the Chicken Little pundits, that is your perogative. The War on Terrorism is just as much about winning the hearts and minds of the American Public as it is about gunning down terrorists. It is unfortunate that terrorists have a willing 5th column in our media who jump at the chance to become their pawns. Useful idiots, indeed.

David Schraub said...

Oh dear dear. Someone's been reading Ann Coulter I see. Ironically, in the midst of all of that there was NO response to any of the analysis given, just a mockery of the presenters. That isn't an argument, that's an assertion (and a weak one at that). Calling the media a "5th column" without providing any factual evidence to dispute the claims given is head-in-the-sand commentary. The truth sometimes hurts, and I think it makes far more sense to live in reality and work within a framework of the real world, than to create a fantasy spin-world and act as if everything is going to plan when it clearly isn't. Bush's way is more comfortable, but Kerry's way might actually win the damn war. Which matters more to you? If we learned anything from 9/11, its that terrorism is a threat to take seriously, it isn't a political game. Your rhetoric implies that we can twist the realworld situations of the terrorist threat to match political needs, and that's a dangerous, pre-9/11 mentality that simply can't be accepted anymore.

Do you REALLY think that Iraqi's want Fallujah "wiped off the map"? Hell, I don't even want that (you know, what with all the innocent civilians living there and all). Of course, our strategy has been to do pretty much that, bomb from skyhigh and essentially maximize civilian casualties rather than invade with the ground troops. And lo and behold: Backlash time!

You fault the media for not venturing outside the green zone. Now, why might that be? Could it because their safety is in serious doubt anywhere BUT the green zone? I think that's a point scored for the insurgents, not against the media (who, let's face it, have an incentive to cover as much of the region as possible).

Finally, you're proposed "choice" for the war is such a false dualism I'm surprised you even brought it up. The choice isn't between "tuck[ing] our tails in Clintonesqe cowardace ala Somalia or...suck[ing] it up and finish[ing] the mission we set out to do." Both candidates have been quite clear that we need to finish the mission at hand, and I think I've been very clear that I recognize the importance of winning in Iraq. The question is do we continue with the failed policies of the war so far, or shift gears towards policies that actually appear to have a chance of winning the war: International Aid (a term that goes beyond asking the French to send troops, don't give me that crap strawman), a solider commitment to democratization, an aggressive effort to train Iraqi police and military coupled with aggressive ground attacks against the insurgency. That's John Kerry's plan, and that is what GWB has failed to do. It would be a tremendous failure of judgment and accountability to affirm the failed, pre-9/11 mentality George W. has been exuding lately in the face of the grave threats that face the United States.

N.S.T said...

Schraub, you say that we can't trust Bush to bust us out of our slump in Iraq because he caused it, and that point, in a different set of circumstances, might be valid. However, in the ocntext of the campaign, I would much rather trust a candidate who A) Didn't expect to hold that the war was a mistake on one hand and be resolved and inspirational in an effort to win it on the other hand, and B) Didn't formulate his positions on issues in an effort to appeal to everyone and offend no one, wouldn't you agree?