The President’s National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

I listened to the speech, heard John Kerry’s response, and I’ve just finished reading the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. The transcript of the President’s speech is here. The Mahablog has a pretty good transcript of Kerry’s comments. A quick check of the blogosphere suggests that there are basically two distinct responses emerging. California Yankee expresses one response pretty well:

Why a document like the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, assembling our strategy into a single unclassified document, has never been done before now escapes me. It was obviously something that should have been done long before now.

The other response is pretty well characterized by Oliver Willis’s reaction:

There’s really no concrete definition of victory here, still. But it seems that they’re saying we don’t leave until Iraq is a full western style democracy… with ponies. Of course, Iraq is currently a hotbed of violence with 150,000 U.S. troops holding down the fort, and shows no interest in western style democracy, preferring to enshrine religious Sharia law than anything resemble the U.S. constitution.

I don’t honestly see what more Mr. Bush could have done in his speech or how much more detail there could have been in the 35 page briefing paper. I do disagree with Oliver’s opinion that Iraqis have no interest in western style democracy. Ten minutes reading Iraqi bloggers would convince him that there are plenty of Iraqis who deeply wish for their country to become a liberal democracy. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of Iraqis who want a return to the dictatorship and plenty who want an Iranian-style theocracy.

And that returns to the point I’ve been making for a while now. Here are the assumptions on the political aspect of the strategy from the National Strategy:

The political track of our strategy is based on six core assumptions:

  • First, like people in all parts of the world, from all cultures and religions, when given the opportunity, the Iraqi people prefer to live in freedom rather than under tyranny.
  • Second, a critical mass of Iraqis in all areas of the country will not embrace the perverse vision offered by the terrorists. Most rejectionists can over time be persuaded to no longer seek the privileges of dictatorship — and in exchange will embrace the rewards of democratic stability.
  • Third, an enduring democracy is not built through elections alone: critical components include transparent, effective institutions and a national constitutional compact.
  • Fourth, federalism is not a precursor to the breakup of Iraq, but instead is a prerequisite for a united country and better governance. Federalism allows a strong central government to exercise the powers of a sovereign state, while enabling regional bodies to make decisions that protect the interests of local populations.
  • Fifth, it is in the fundamental interests of all Iraqi communities — and of the region — that Iraq stays a united country. This shared objective creates space for compromise across ethnic and religious divides and for the steady growth of national institutions.
  • Sixth, Iraq needs and can receive the support of the region and the international community to solidify its successes.

I think that there’s at least one more assumption: that the various ethnic and religious factions in Iraq will be willing to subordinate their own parochial interests to the national good. And I think that remains to be seen. Maybe that’s what’s meant by assumption #2. I’d certainly like to see some evidence that would support this assumption.

To my eye the current trend appears to be faction and “staying the course”, no matter how effective in achieving the goals laid out in the National Strategy document, does not appear to change the system of incentives that seem to be moving the country in that direction.

We only have a very small number of options available to us. We can bug out and deal with the repercussions of that decision. Those repercussions are laid out pretty well in the National Strategy and the proponents of that alternative have a moral imperative to bring forth their proposals for dealing with them. Or we can continue with a troop commitment of 150,000 or larger in Iraq while the objectives of the National Strategy are achieved. If ever. This alternative, too, will have repercussions on our military, our economy, and our politics. Proponents of this alternative have a similar obligation to propose their plans with dealing with the consequences of their decision.

Or we can modify our current approach to deal with the problem that’s already on the ground: faction. How do we do that? Beats me. But what we’re doing isn’t working.

We’re not going to be bailed out by the international community. That’s a fantasy. First, there is no international community. There are just a lot of different countries each with its own goals, objectives, and political realities. And, second, no country that isn’t already committed in Iraq has any stomach whatsoever for getting involved there now.

I’ve always felt that we would have a significant troop commitment in Iraq for a generation or more. That will have consequences, too.

UPDATE: I’ve tried but I can’t resist quoting Dafydd ab Hugh’s characterization of Hillary Clinton’s position on the war in Iraq:

Stay the course, follow the Bush war agenda, but sit in the back seat and bitch the whole time.

I think that goes for a good part of the Democratic Party as well, C’mon, folks. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

11 comments… add one
  • Sorry Dave, you should have resisted. The critiques by the “war-Dems” have been the same as the Republican Senators like McCain, Hagel, Lugar (and even increasingly Warner!) — and they’ve been on the money for the last several years in terms of where the big weaknesses have been in the Admin’s abysmal planning and execution. The changes in policy we’ve seen over the past 4-6 months under the Casey/Khalizad team are the sorts of things that “war-Dems” and the more serious of the Republican Senators have been calling for since 2003. Note Lugar-Biden attempts to deal with these issues in hearings that the media have generally ignored.

    I don’t see what the war-Dems have been doing as anything other than responsible. They’re not in a postition to “lead”, they surely shouldn’t be expected to have “followed” the criminally incompetent Admin without insisiting on changing course, nor do I see them as “in the way.”

    The splits among Senators of both parties on “exit strategy” that you’re now seeing are based on different assessments of whether the US has any time left to ramp up to “win,” or whether instead we’re in damage control mode. (btw, I put myself and General Casey squarely in the “damage control” school.) And if so, what’s the best way to maximize the benefits and minimize the damage, given the lack of options you’ve outlined in your post.

    Hillary isn’t nearly as far as Hagel, or even Biden, on shifting to damage control mode. So where’s the beef with her? How does she keep becoming this symbol for target practice? At least she’s not embarrassing herself with exercises in fantasy like Lieberman’s recent WSJ fluff-piece that most of the sensible Republican Senators wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to write. Or is emulating Lieberman now the only test of being a “good” Democrat?

  • Thanks for commenting, Nadezhda. I’m unashamedly a Lieberman fan. I’ve voted for him twice: once for Vice President and once in the Democratic primaries. And I similarly unashamedly despise Hillary Clinton and have done so since the early 1990’s. I’ll quote Brad DeLong: “the woman shouldn’t be let anywhere near the White House”.

    I’ve tried to be pretty clear in recent months about where I stood on the subject of the Iraq War. I opposed the invasion and felt that the level of debate that took place in the Senate did not approach “due diligence”. I further believe that a hefty chunk of the Democratic Senators who voted to give Bush the authority to invade did so solely for political considerations.

    However, once the invasion had taken place and especially when Saddam’s regime had been overthrown my posture changed and I believe that of more Democrats should have changed, too. I’m naive enough to still believe that politics should stop at the water’s edge. It didn’t. The criticism that didn’t take place during a Senate debate has taken place while we had troops in the field overseas. A former Democratic President has bitterly criticized the sitting President while overseas. This morning I heard on the news a Democratic Congressman lying outright on the leadup to the invasion. That’s unacceptable behavior.

    There have been a lot of people throwing words like “traitor”, “criminal”, and “lying” around. Those words have specific meanings. I don’t think you’ve seen me use them. I’ve tried my darnedest to avoid that kind of talk. About anyone. If anybody has specific knowledge about specific treason, about genuine criminal behavior, or actual lying by the President I think they should bring it out (lying has two components: knowing utterance of a falsehood and an intent to deceive).

    God! I don’t want to defend the Bush Administration. I think they’ve done a lot of imprudent things.

    There have been cries of “quagmire” since April, 2003. All of the carping has consequences. I don’t think that Bush operates solely from political considerations but it would be disingenous to claim that domestic political considerations don’t play a strong role in what he does. He’s President of the United States, for goodness sake. That’s the way things are done.

    If there had been more domestic support, if there hadn’t been an election coming up, if he hadnt’ been subject to so much criticism after the invasion, I think a lot of what you’re calling “criminal incompetence” wouldn’t have happened. We needed and still need to present a solid front.

    I think it’s way late for the President’s National Strategy—it should have been published in August, 2003. But I think it’s similarly early for damage-control.

    So, what should be done? First, the talk of leaving Iraq should end completely. We leave when we’re done. Let’s talk only about how we get done and leave the “exit strategy” for later. Second, let’s consider carrots and sticks. As I’ve written multiple times here there’s an incentives problem in Iraqi politics. Third (and this is something I’ve also been saying for a long while), there has to be a helluva lot more and better communication both with the American people and with the Iraqi people. Every day.

    As to this:

    They’re not in a postition to “lead”, they surely shouldn’t be expected to have “followed” the criminally incompetent Admin without insisiting on changing course, nor do I see them as “in the way.”

    Bull. Democrats could show leadership but that would entail risk and they’re unwilling to accept that. There could have been leadership in Fall of 2002 in the Senate, there could have been leadership during the primary campaigns, there could have been leadership during Kerry’s presidential campaign, and there could be leadership now.

    And, yes, sometimes even if you’re a member of a different party than the President you do have to follow. I see the Democratic Party as a different party than the Republicans not as the opposition party. Opposition parties have historically not been successful in the United States. Generally, the most positive view wins here.

    And I’ve already expressed my ideas on how the opposition has been in the way.

  • “And, yes, sometimes even if you’re a member of a different party than the President you do have to follow. I see the Democratic Party as a different party than the Republicans not as the opposition party. Opposition parties have historically not been successful in the United States. Generally, the most positive view wins here.”

    Ironically, without Iraq in mind, I posted on that today with an example.

    Hi Nadezhda,

    The Bush administration is not “criminally incompetent”.

    Their identification of strategic threats and grand strategic objectives has been superior, far and away better than either Clinton or Bush I. Their execution of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were also excellent.
    ” Rush to war/Bush lied” may be a comforting meme to the left to rationalize Democratic votes for war but it is about as accurate as the ” Merchants of Death” fairy tale about the causes of WWI. In short, it is a lie of the kind of magnitude that Democratic critics are accusing the administration of telling.

    Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Bush crowd in diplomacy, the “moral” aspect of wartime leadership or securing the victory via adequate military planning on the operational level. Here they range from mediocre to incompetent. This is where 90 % of the administration’s self-inflicted wounds have arisen and this is where Iraq has been nearly lost.

    Complaints here about Bush administration competency are perfectly legitimate at this level but the administration’s critics fall into three very different camps:

    a) Those who were for the war and now fear the U.S. might lose

    b) Those who were against the war because they feared U.S. might lose

    c) Those who were against the war because they feared the U.S. might win

    The Democratic Party has nothing distinctively coherent in terms of strategic vision for winning the war ( on Terror and in Iraq) to offer the nation because the party contains people from a, b and c – with c dominating the activist base and stifling the frank discussion from a and b required to generate new ideas.

    The c category ranges from those who think terrorism is overblown and a sinister justification for fat corporate profits to the tinfoil hatters who believe that Bushitler blew up the WTC on 9/11. They’re basically adherents of the New Left/Revisionist/Chomsky/Oliver Stone cultural script that America is a bad place, an illegitimate ” empire” and we pretty much deserved what we got.

    These c people have Democratic officeholders paralyzed, except for a few brave souls like Lieberman or ambitious ones like Hillary -there’s no pleasing them without alienating about 60 % of the American public and yet they dominate the primary process so very little movement occurs.

    Which is too bad because something more intelligent than ” withdraw now” would be of some help.

  • Dave, I’m quite puzzled by the intensity of your reaction to the “opposition” of Democrats who voted to give Bush authority to use force. The Dems in the House are irrelevant, so I take it we’re talking about the Senate.

    Of course their votes in October of 2002 were strongly motivated by political reasons. So? This is grounds for outrage? Like you, I thought all along that the war was a disastrous strategic error. But I can’t get too steamed about the Democrats who voted “yes.” A “no” vote wasn’t going to stop Bush’s drive for war in Iraq. And it wasn’t going to shift public opinion at the time, which remained traumatized by 9/11. Why should those who thought that the old sanctions regime had run its course but who were cautious about a war be castigated for refusing to commit political suicide?

    There was no compelling reason, other than to use the cudgel of domestic politics, for Bush to have that vote before the elections. The Democrats in both the House and Senate would have been destroyed at the polls, even more than they were, in the midterms, if there had been a significantly larger Democratic “no” vote in both houses. But please recall that the stated rationale for an October vote was not to approve a decision to go to war but rather to give Bush the credibility he needed to pressure Saddam. Let’s also not forget that even the French at the time had become rather enthusiastic supporters of pressuring Saddam with threats of force and were even discussing how they might cooperate in enforcing UN decisions. And the threats of force, in fact, worked. I find it hard to sustain an argument in Bush’s favor that blames Dems for trusting the President to live up to his own commitments — that he wouldn’t invade unless there was no other choice to “disarm Saddam” — and trusting him to use a modicum of honesty about the case against Saddam when it came time to justify his decision to go to war.

    Will we have some Dems overstate the “Bush lied” meme now? Sure. But I’m curious – why is that a more egregious sin than the “threat inflation” and hyped-up marketing job of the Bush Administration that convinced a majority of the country that Saddam had nuclear weapons, was in bed with Al Qaeda and was behind 9/11? Or the constant overstatements of “progress” in Iraq continuing to this day?

    The Bushies have earned their “credibility gap” through their own efforts (whether dishonest or honestly delusional) without any help from their opponents. What the recent brouhaha about withdrawal has finally accomplished, however, is that the Administration is being forced to communicate to the public with something other than slogans and with more coherence than bits and pieces to be gleaned from interviews with various Administration personalities or piecemeal comments from unidentified “senior administration officials” and “military officers and analysts”. You yourself note that better communication is long over due. If “getting in the way” means forcing the Admin finally to communicate with the public, then so be it.

    In any event, I am reluctant to use the “L” word for most politicians including Bush, since legalistic parsing to “prove” whether single statements are “lies” is nearly always a distraction. As I wrote a year ago, there’s an important difference between liars and conmen. The real problem with “political discourse” is that we’re bombarded with false and misleading narratives produced by cherry-picking summary conclusions that are labeled “facts” which are set within a highly misleading narrative frame. That’s what con artists do — they deceive as much by omission as commission, playing on the fears or greed of their marks. Instead of our focusing solely on the Administration’s prewar con game, we should also be asking ourselves why so much of the US public was so easily taken. Why were we such easy marks? And, of course, be wary of Bush’s opponents playing the same games.

    As for the actions (or lack thereof) of the “war-Dems” of which you complain, I am genuinely curious as to what you mean by their failure to “lead” and “take risk.” Examples, please. What positions should they have taken? And how would that have mattered one whit?

    I reject the notion that criticism of the war or its conduct contributed in any fashion to the post-invasion debacles. Both the House and the Senate gave the Administration everything they asked for in the supplementals with virtually no argument (the debate was on the budget deficit, not the Iraq and Afghanistan expenditures), including an incredibly rapid no-strings pot of $18.6 billion of reconstruction funding. It was just as well Congress didn’t try to challenge the Administration, because it was impervious to input, constructive or critical, from even the most friendly sources — from inside the Administration, from the Brits, from long-time Republican experts. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon achieved complete control over the entire post-invasion process, military and civilian, including financing the CAP and controlling much of its staffing. And after they wrested total control from everybody else, the Pentagon then proceeded to do nothing or worse than nothing. They never did get the reconstruction office set up by the time the CAP went out of business. (George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate is, btw, truly outstanding on the details of the first year post-invasion — both a devastating indictment of the folks in charge and a sympathetic exploration of the immense complexity of post-Saddam Iraq that even the most competent and well-planned occupation would have faced.)

    Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld ignored every rational person inside their own Administration and the military who were saying the same things that Lugar, Biden, McCain and Hillary were saying. Rather than being injured by criticism from classic anti-war opposition like Michael Moore, the White House thrived on it, because that made the politics of maintaining support for the war so much easier. Like fish in a barrel. The lack of a major anti-war movement was actually a disadvantage for the White House political operation once the war began to get nasty.

    I certainly don’t believe that the critiques being made by the “war-Dems” from 2003 have in any way violated the “waters edge” rule. They’ve been calling for doing more in key areas — not just troops but reconstruction and political engagement — and doing it differently. Withdrawal has only begun to be raised in the last couple of months. Even the Dems who weren’t as strongly supportive of the war as the “liberal hawks” have for several years — well before the 2004 elections — called for an increase in the size of the Army and pointed to the breaking of the Guard and Reserve. As even McCain admits, it’s now probably too late for the “more troops” option in any meaningful way. It’s the Administration that’s been in denial, whether due to Rummy’s refusal to countenance a bigger Army or fear of voter backlash is unclear.

    Probably at the root of your and my disagreement are two factors. First, I disagree about the time for damage control — that’s where I believe we are now (and have been since that horrible convergence of Fallujah I, Abu Ghraib and Najaf I). I also believe that damage control is the approach being taken rather aggressively by Casey/Khalizad, at long last, thank heavens. The Bush speech and the new strategy doc are political cover for improvisation on the ground. And right now, improvisation’s the best we can do in the current highly dynamic and fluid situation, as your analysis of options and incentives elucidates so well. Probably the President and some of the WH staff are believers that “we’re fighting to win,” but the reality-based community in the military and State appear far less concerned with a US-led “victory” and more with retrieving the best outcome they can from a disaster.

    But then, I think it’s been a terrible mistake for Bush to constantly focus on “defeating the terrorists” as the rationale for our presence in Iraq and the objective we choose as the definition of “victory.” The US isn’t going to defeat the terrorists militarily, as our military leadership has long acknowledged. The aborted attempt to switch from the GWOT to GSAVE (struggle against violent extremism) was an attempt to separate Iraq strategy from the GWOT rhetoric. Unfortunately, this sensible step was shot down by Bush himself because, for him, Iraq is all about “defeating the terrorists,” at least politically. What we can never tell from the outside is whether that’s driving his decision-making as well.

    Why did Rumsfeld’s Pentagon and Rice’s State team up to switch from GWOT to GSAVE? Because of the gap between the old GWOT rhetoric and the emerging policies of the second term— military, political and diplomatic — especially in Iraq. The President’s stated objectives create a major dissonance with the actual policies being pursued and military operations on the ground. Organization theory 101 tells us that any bureaucracy — public or private sector — that has a public mission that doesn’t fit with the day-to-day reality faced by its personnel or with the actions they’re taking will have major problems planning and executing. The “victory over the terrorists” focus also gets the President further and further out on the limb with the public, making it harder to crawl back to reality, as I’ve written for months. I understand his need to shore up the base, but there are major negative consequences, both at home and abroad, of continuing to oversell.

    I certainly agree with you, however, that harping on withdrawal puts the cart before the horse. “Withdrawal” versus “fight until we win” is a false dichotomy, as I’ve argued for almost a year. We’re not going to be withdrawing completely any time soon. Simply the need to perform combat support functions for the Iraqi forces will keep a goodly number of US military personnel in Iraq for a few more years. As well as trainers, embedded advisers, etc. To say nothing of a quick-reaction capability in the neighborhood. But then, as I and many others have pointed out, there’s been considerable convergence between the critiques and proposals of the “war-Dems” and the policies that have been emerging in bits and pieces from the military and Khalizad.

    In the domestic political arena, however, the “withdrawal” theme is the equivalent of Bush’s “fight till we win” theme. Both are way, way too simplistic. But they serve for political debates. And the press always pushes things to their absolute simplest conflicts. So it’s hard for people like Hagel, who has thoughtful, constructive and substantive issues with the entire strategic orientation of the Admin in Iraq, the Middle East and the GWOT, to get his points heard, when the only thing any one wants to report is whether he’s for a drawdown and has he finally plumped for a timetable. Same for “war-Dems” who have avoided the withdrawal debate but have rightly believed the Admin needed to change what it was doing. They just get bashed for not “having ideas” (when they actually have quite a lot of constructive ideas, see Biden’s CFR speech) and accused of not “leading” by failing to advocate an early withdrawal.

    Still, Bush shouldn’t be talking to either the US public or to Iraqis about what sounds like an open-end commitment. Apart from the fact that our military would come apart at the seams, the Iraqis aren’t going to allow us to “fight until we win.” We may have a lot of folks there for a long time to come, but we’re not going to be calling the shots much past 2006-07. That’s going to make for some very challenging relationship management between the Iraqi government and the US, as well as some tricky negotiating over SOFA and the UN mandate later in 2006. But you’d never know it from what the President says. I continue to be amazed that Bush never talks about what’s acceptable to the Iraqis. The decisions re military operations are always couched in terms of HIS decisions based on what his commanders tell him. Every once in a while he mentions coalition and Iraqi “allies” in passing. It would be courteous if not prudent for Bush to give a hat tip to the fact that there’s going to be a new Iraqi government, which hopefully will reflect a different political dynamic and will be more inclusive. If the new government manages to be at least more responsive to disaffected Sunnis, the main thing most will agree on is that they want to see the US out of their lives ASAP. The more we don’t acknowledge that pressure, the more we strengthen the ability of folks like Sadr to use the US as the rallying point against which politics will unify. The one thing that gives me comfort is that I’m sure Khalizad is fully sensitive to that dilemma. So you’ll continue to hear from him a much more nuanced discourse than the President’s.

    You’re absolutely right about incentives being the key imponderable. And Casey openly acknowledges that the presence of US combat forces is one (but not the only or even the main) incentive problem that cuts both ways. The configuration and functions being performed by US forces — not the absolute number of troops — is one factor among many that will be in play as Casey/Khalizad navigate the chaos and negotiate among the various Iraqi groups over the coming six months. The number of troops, and especially their skill mix, is, however, extremely important due to the strains on the military. It’s a heavy constraint on US options and will, regardless of Bush’s rhetorical commitments, continue to drive a great deal of planning as it has done from the outset of the conflict.

    I’m not sure whether you and I disagree on the international dimension despite your vehemence on the topic. I don’t think anyone’s talking these days of any other countries “bailing out” the US in terms of providing combat forces. Just as it’s too late to talk about ramping up the level of US forces, it’s too late to talk about internationalizing the security situation. But that’s not to say that the international dimension isn’t extremely important — why Biden, Hagel, etc stress a contact group that can start to institutionalize the international context.

    Iraq can’t be dealt with in isolation or by the US alone. This is not simply a matter of its two porous borders – Iran and Syria. The end state toward which the US is working – a stable Iraq – must be part of a broader regional security situation, given how important transnational ethnic and sectarian allegiances and rivalries are for both Iraqi and regional stability. Again, I think this is well-understood by Khalizad and, increasingly, Rice. Hopefully, they’ll be given enough room by the White House to manage the construction of a regional framework. Rice is certainly working the Saudi and Gulf angle, and now Khalizad is openly dealing with the Iranians. But don’t forget that the UN, the Europeans and, to a lesser extent, Russia can be extremely useful in that process — introducing some of those carrots you’re talking about. Their carrots and sticks are already increasingly important for dealing with Syria and Iran.

    I imagine the second main source of our disagreement is that, unlike you, I personally have no particularly strong feelings about either Lieberman or Hillary. I am disappointed that Lieberman has increasingly lost credibility on all things Middle East. I’m pretty sure that Hillary isn’t evil incarnate — she actually makes a pretty good Senator. I’m just about certain, however, they’d both make lousy Presidents. On the other hand, I have a strange affection for Lugar, and I’m certain he’d make a lousy President as well. But then I don’t think the Senate is the best training ground for Presidents. They pick up a lot of bad habits there. The Senate does, however, have a responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable for the big stuff. If anything, I think Senators from both parties have fallen down in that role, both before and after the war began, not overplayed it.

    On a side note regarding an episode which, unlike you, I regarded with some amusement. Pres Clinton has been very careful with his criticisms for five years, sensitive to the rules of the Presidents Club: a foremer President doesn’t openly oppose the current foreign policy efforts of the sitting President, limiting himself to mild caveats. There came a time, however, when the RNC talking points on pre-war intelligence tried to justify the Bush Admin’s actions primarily via gross distortions of Clinton’s policies and the history of the intelligence that was known at various times during Clinton’s two administrations, virtually turning “Bush’s reasons for war” into “Bush-Clinton’s reasons for war.” In response, Clinton slapped them sharply once, as a little reminder of the rules of the Presidents Club when it comes to the uses of history: failure to openly oppose should not be construed as agreement. And lo and behold, the talking points shifted and the Presidents Club appears to be back in working order again, to at least the satisfaction of the members of the Club, if not of the supporters of the various Presidents.

    Long story short — I see little helpful movement in Bush’s rhetoric in his speech today. I see decided improvement in what the team in Iraq is doing, and it looks like they have the support (or at least no opposition) from their bosses. I hope that the White House will not impose the rhetorical “victory” demands on the guys trying to solve the problems on the ground. I agree with much of your analysis of our limited options and where the possible pressure points are, though I’m probably more pessimistic than you are. I disagree strongly that somehow the Democrats have been undermining the war effort. I believe strongly that the current bipartisan group in the main committees of the Senate needs to keep the pressure on the Admin to force the type of communication that has been sorely lacking. The Senators also may need to intervene to back the team on the ground, running interference on their behalf with the White House or Rumsfeld if needed. And whether you and I personally approve, we’re stuck with the artificial political debate between “withdrawal” and “fight till we win,” no matter how nuanced the actual discussion by Senators of either party or Administration officials.

    Apologies for the length of the comment. But responding to your always-well-considered thoughts has helped me put in at least first order a number of my own thoughts I’ve been struggling to get down in writing. Maybe a post of my own will be forthcoming one of these days.

  • Mazhdeka Link

    Bush is beginning to make sense. Democrats are criminally negligent and asleep at the switch.

    It is sad because I was once a loyal Democrat myself. It seems they cannot take the minimal risks necessary to lead.

  • postsoviet Link


    The first political assumption in Your list says it all:

    “First, like people in all parts of the world, from all cultures and religions, when given the opportunity, the Iraqi people prefer to live in freedom rather than under tyranny.”

    IRAQIS, Arab/Palestinians, Iranians, Indonesians, etc. etc. etc. would turn their back on Islam in an instant if they were not under duress from birth to death. And this is only a moderate generalization.

    THAT OBVIOUS FACT highlights what Democracy and Free Market Capitalism offer the individual; An Opportunity (not a threat.)

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