ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Monday, August 15, 2005

Frank Rich: I've finally succeeded in undermining American Foreign Policy!

Frank Rich declares in the New York Times (link is to the International Herald Tribune) that the War is Over... It's almost as if he's giddy. I guess when someone sees their efforts of many years to undermine this war finally come to fruition in their mind (through the time-sensitive tea leaves that are a poll), it's understandable that they'd be giddy.

Frank Rich: Someone tell the president the war is over
The New York Times

NEW YORK Like the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President George W. Bush may be the last person in the United States to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved President Lyndon Johnson's handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as LBJ's ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing America's long extrication from that quagmire.
Sorry, Frank... Bush isn't LBJ (he doesn't listen to polls) and Iraq isn't Vietnam, no matter how often you say it is... Please make a phone call to my favorite Democrat and military historian, Victor Davis Hanson.
But the current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

The president's cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News, Bill O'Reilly is trashing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding O'Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration's prewar inflation of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. (On this sinking ship, it's hard to know which rat to root for.)

As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn't unsettling enough, Bush's top war strategists, starting with Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls "a global struggle against violent extremism." A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war's uber-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it's a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Bush gave the fateful address that sped congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive.
Iraq & Al Qaeda DO have contacts that go back a decade - and it's documented in the very Senate Intelligence Committee report which Frank refers to as discrediting the President's statement. Of course, Frank is relying on the confusion of the general public and the disservice of the MSM to cloud his distortion.
He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." America's own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

Yes, the anti-Bush State Dept under Colin Powell had serious disagreements with the Bush Administration policy regarding Iraq and sought to undermine it wherever possible. My question is why the State Dept is used by the CIA for such highly sensitive and crucial intelligence? Incompetence is my only answer...

And yes, Bush was right that Saddam's Iraq had sought uranium (the infamous yellow cake) - and the Senate Intelligence committee even found Amb. Wilson's report from Niger to support this statement. Again, Rich relies on the MSM bubble that he lives in to protect him.
It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on Sept. 11, 2001, and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 Marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio Marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Bush.
Bush did not allege that Iraq collaborated on 9/11 - in fact, he publicly stated that the did not. Iraq with a nuclear weapon surely would target American interests (read US forces in Saudi Arabia enforcing the no-fly zone or our frieds in Israel - and yes, if you smirk at the use of the term "friends," you have serious problems.)

Hackett <> Dean <> MoveOn <> DU <> Progressive/Liberal Democrat. At least, not in ANY of the ads he ran for this race.
These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory "a wake-up call." The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Bush (to no avail) to "show some leadership" by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as "a matter of courtesy and decency." Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering television cameras and the blogosphere round the clock.
Meeting with Cindy Sheehan isn't a statement that the war is over. No doubt Frank would declare "Bush admits failure" if he were to visit with Cindy a second time (to explain to her yet again what her son died for). Visiting the families in Ohio does not either. And the reason Bush is unable to go to military funeral is because it would make the extremely emotional event a spectacle. No doubt Frank would decry Bush's "politicizatoin of America's War Dead."
Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war's end. That's inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Bush's credentials as a slam-dunk "war president," suitable for a "Top Gun" victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader "dead or alive."
And yet, Bush told Rumsfeld 'in due time', since we DID go after Afghanistan and removed it as a haven for Al Qaeda. And that country is scheduled to have parliamentary elections in less than a month - with several million registered voters, including women. And Bush reminded us multiple times that this war is not just about catching a single man (OBL), but rather to change the entire environment of the Middle East so that the people there have hope for the future (and do not see any use of terrorist attacks).
But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. Early last year, Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's America's failure to provide that security that has turned Iraq into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.
Iraq under Saddam has been a terrorist haven for quite some time (see Abu Nidal, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, etc, etc). Shinseki retired as scheduled... his disagreement with Rummy was more over the definition of "several" or "couple" than anything else.
The endgame for U.S. involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, General George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring.

Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Iraqi democracy than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006. Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). An American citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional U.S. troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.
Yes, thanks to the constant politicization of the war by Dems, the Left, and the MSM, political concerns now are in the realm of consideration. If only the Dems would live by the traditional credo that party affiliation and division ends beyond the borders. Instead, we have Democratic congressmen heading to Iraq to visit with Saddam pre-war. We have constant harping over military strategy, from the Goldilocks discussion over deployments to specific military logistics issues to which theater troops are deployed to.
What lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom America will then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.
The day that we sit down to negotiate with Zarqawi will truly be a defeat. Discussions with Iraqi Sunnis (not Zarqawi) to have them cease their terrorist operations and lay down their arms is appropriate. However, giving these anti-democratic forces a seat at the table of the new, future Iraqi government is another sign of a failure in Iraq (and it's precisely what Frank would call for to get us out of Iraq).

BTW, there are two main criticism that I feel are valid of the Bush Administration's prosecution of this war:
  1. Their failure to secure a northern front through Turkey and hit the Sunni Triangle well before the fall of Baghdad (this is primarily Powell's failure, btw);
  2. Their wholesale disbanding of the Iraqi military. Just idiotic to turn trained military men into unemployed guys with no future and plenty of arms. Whether they would've joined our side or not is up for debate (as demonstrated by the Iraqi general who was a turncoat in Fallujah).
Thus the president's claim on Thursday that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its "last throes." Americans have already made the decision for Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made America more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.

Sorry, Frank... but you & your NYC cocktail party circuit do not make the entire body politic - no matter how hard you try. And a simple question in a poll is probably not the best way to decide a complex foreign policy issue. Fortunately, Bush doesn't rely on polls to make his decision. He has what the Democrats sorely lack:

"The Vision Thing"

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler