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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Defeat In Iraq Has Many Fathers

Victor Davis Hansen, my favorite Democrat, provides this analysis on the lack of news about anything that's taking place in Iraq:

When Good News is No News
By Victor Davis Hanson
Thursday, November 15, 2007

There’s an old expression about war: “Victory has many fathers, while defeat is an orphan.” But in the case of Iraq, it seems the other way around. We’ve blamed many for the ordeal of the last four years, but it is the American victory in Anbar province that now seems without parents.

Over the last few months, the U.S. military forced Sunni insurgents in Anbar to quit fighting. This enemy, in the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle, had been responsible for most American casualties in the war and was the main cause of unrest in Iraq. Even more unexpectedly, some of the defeated tribes then joined in an alliance of convenience with their American victors to chase al-Qaida from Iraq’s major cities.

As President Bush recently told U.S. troops about Anbar province: “It was once written off as lost. It is now one of the safest places in Iraq.”

But that dramatic turnabout in Iraq is rarely reported on. We know as much about O.J.’s escapades in Vegas as we do about the Anbar awakening or the flight of al-Qaida from Baghdad. When we occasionally do hear about Iraq, it is just as likely through a Hollywood movie — “In the Valley of Elah,” “Redacted,” “Lions for Lambs” — preaching to us how the U.S. was mostly incompetent or amoral in fighting a hopeless war.

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004 warranted 32 consecutive days on The New York Times’ front page. Congressional appeals for timetables and scheduled withdrawals, amid cries of “fiasco” and “quagmire,” were regularly reported this summer. Now, though, there is largely silence in newspaper headlines about the growing peace in Anbar province.

Why this abrupt amnesia about Iraq, given a radical drop in American casualties and entire cities now largely free from serial violence?

Many anti-war critics are so invested in the notion of the Iraq war as the “worst” something or other in U.S. history that they cannot accept the radical turnaround after over four years of war.

Other opponents have simply changed their argument from “Iraq is lost” to “Even if we do win, it will not have been worth the cost.” Either way, good news from the front seems to translate into no news.

Even some supporters of the war are leery and hesitant to tout American success. Maybe they remember past optimism over successful elections and the euphoria over the purple fingers — all occurring prior to the Shiite/Sunni sectarian bloodletting of 2006.

New uncertainties elsewhere also overshadow Iraq — the falling dollar, martial law in Pakistan, skyrocketing oil prices, and fear of a soon-to-be nuclear Iran. Amid all that chaos, Iraq may no longer be our chief worry.

The military — unlike the Bush administration — is strangely silent about its recent successes. The caution is not just due to uncertainty over whether the Sunni Triangle will stay won for good.

Instead, the September testimony of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and the reaction to it — whether the “General Betray Us” ad or Sen. Hillary Clinton’s jab that to believe the general’s testimony required a “willing suspension of disbelief” — reminded officers how Iraq will loom large in election-cycle domestic politics. Getting drawn into such politicking is something responsible military leaders try to avoid.

Nevertheless, we may be witnessing one of those radical, unforeseen reversals in America’s wars that have often changed our history.

The White House was burned by British forces in late August 1814; a little more than four months later, the British were routed at New Orleans. During the Civil War, the Union army was on the ropes in July 1864 yet outside Atlanta by September. The Germans were driving through France in March 1918, but fleeing toward the Rhine by August. The communists took Seoul in early January 1951, yet were pushed back across the Demilitarized Zone a little more than three months later.

Of course, we don’t know the final outcome in Iraq, given the remaining problems of Shiite militias and diehard al-Qaidists — and the question of our own remaining resolve.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps may well soon stabilize the Iraqi democracy once deemed lost. Or perhaps, in the manner of Vietnam between 1973-5, the public may have become so tired of Iraq — despite the improvement — that it simply wants it out of sight and out of mind.

Either way, history is now being made while we sleep.

Meanwhile, in tonight's Democratic debate, the focus will be on the illegal war in Iraq and which of the Democratic candidates will pull our troops out soonest, regardless of the consequences of such an action.

Many on the Left are only interested in defeat in Iraq for political purposes... sure, they'd like to win and for Iraq to be a stable, but that doesn't provide them with any personal political benefit.

And, more than anything else, their irrational hatred for Chimpy W. McBushitler is more important than any victory over a true enemy.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (6)
Stupid Country said...

"Other opponents have simply changed their argument from 'Iraq is lost' to 'Even if we do win, it will not have been worth the cost.'”

Some of us are simply not convinced that tamping down the violence equals victory. Reducing the bloodshed is a tactical plus, but "victory" has to be at the strategic level. That means it has to be built on a sustainable political settlement. I get the point that reduction in the violence is linked to political conciliation, but it isn't a precondition for a political accord.

In order to get excited about the military gains, we have to see some evidence of political gains. We need to see movement in the Iraqi parliament. There has been none. Until there is some reason to hope for a meaningful settlement, there's no reason to reassess what still looks like a pointless diversion of resources from genuine anti-terrorist objectives and a futile bloodbath. A quiet Iraq is nonetheless a fragmented society still at war with itself.

It. Is. A. Loss.

Hansen's characterization of events as a "radical turnaround" is absurd. Nor does his reference to Sunni insurgents as "the main cause of unrest in Iraq" make a whole lot of sense when rival Shi'ite movements are just now gearing up for new bloodshed among themselves in southern Iraq. The British wisely chose not to stay seated on that powderkeg; as US troops turn their attention, and shift their strength, southward, it'll be fascinating to see what becomes of the calm in Anbar.

Nah. This blog has held forth on the Democrats' "investment in failure" in Iraq often -- very consistently and sometimes eloquently. But this suggestion misses the fundamental point: The war has been the cornerstone of foreign policy for one administration that represented a radical departure from the pragmatism of previous administrations. This has been the most purely ideologically driven least in living memory. If Americans are exhausted from the years of setbacks, the astounding costs and -- absolutely yes -- the obvious and infuriating amorality of it all, then that's this administration's failure. It's this ideology's failure.

It. Is. Already. Lost.

Most Americans have lost their confidence in the administration, in the ideology and, I believe, in ideologically purist government generally, now that its had some experience with it. (And no, I don't think Americans can be convinced that any of the credible Democrats represent ideological purism on the Left.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone if the next administration abandons the Iraq policy as soon as it has the authority to do so.

One other thing this blog has harped repeatedly on is this so-called "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It's a cute turn of phrase. But sorry, Saint -- to the degree the President is personally answerable for the appalling, traumatic waste and the shockingly amplified polarization of the last 6 1/2 years, he's earned a generous measure of hatred. He's worked hard for it. There's nothing irrational about it.

Brian said...

So SC, basically you're saying.

"NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH! I can't hear you! It's already lost! It will never be a win! It can't be a win! "

In essence, proving VDH's point. Victory is unthinkable to you as it would provide benefit to George W. Bush.

Stupid Country said...

lol. Evidently no, you don't hear me.

St Wendeler said...

BDS is irrational.

It does nothing to further your arguments, either in respect to foreign or domestic policy.

The Sunni reversal is a political victory in Iraq. The Shiite deathsquads laying down their arms is a political victory.

The lack of violence in Iraq is a political victory. Without these victories, future victories at the national government level would not be possible. That you're unwilling to be pleased with any victory, small or large, shows how irrational you are.

Stupid Country said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stupid Country said...

I'm saying you can't just dismiss criticism of Bush, or even expressions of anger at Bush for having done the things we criticize, as irrational hatred. I don't much care for the way he talks either, but that has nothing to do with the way I regard his politics.

Sorry, but I differ with you on the nature of the Sunni "reversal," as you call it. I am, however, always pleased when people stop killing each other or even ease off for a bit. I just hesitate to read too much into it.