All right, let’s skip all the introductory remarks and get to the point. Is victory still possible in Iraq? Yes, though the Bush administration keeps doing its level best to kick that prize away from our troops.
We can tally up the mistakes later (I’ll mention two of the worst ones at the end) but the first step to winning in Iraq is to define victory — and not to define it in such a way, as the Bush administration has done, that leaves us hostages to the Iraqi government. That is a strategic error of the first magnitude.
Even after the president’s recent address, announcing that America’s patience with the Iraqi government is not limitless, and promising a — by my lights, not very dramatic — surge of troops, not enough has changed. The Bush administration’s rhetoric of why we fight has shifted from the politically cynical — and deeply stupid and insensate — mantra of “stay the course (because you can’t trust the cut-‘n’-run Democrats),” which the American people rightly recognized as no course at all, to an equally pitiful emphasis that American defeat in Iraq would be a disaster.
No one ever won a war by fighting for “not defeat.” You win a war by smashing up the enemy, by so overwhelming him but that he has no choice but to surrender or die. Instead we have “stayed the course” (where is the urgency in that?) and we have whined that losing would be a bad thing.
Yes, losing would be a bad thing — and the Bush administration should know, given that it has managed to lose both houses of Congress, alienate its own supporters, and convince the American people by a whopping majority that we cannot “win” in Iraq. Well done, Mr. President!
A PRESIDENT WITH SO LITTLE understanding of his own electorate can hardly, in fairness, be held to account for failing to understand the political realities in a country far away and of which he knows little — though this is scant consolation for those of us who not only think the war was the right and necessary thing to do but who share Mark Steyn’s conviction that “if Iraq’s lost, the Dems and the media will have a whole new quagmire template for the next 40 years.”
But whatever the failures of the administration, it is always a bad idea to bet against the American military.
Indeed, on the military front, things are not so dire as you might think.
First, while the American military — to avoid echoes of Vietnam — disdains kill ratios and body counts, it appears that Iraq is indeed a meat-grinder — for the insurgents. If the Islamists have made this their main battlefront, they’re paying a heavy price to maintain it.
Second, while the Bush administration’s proposed “surge” of troops should have occurred in 2003 — or at the very least by 2006, and should have been more than double the size of what Bush has promised — it will, if swiftly and fully enacted, make the general pacification of Iraq by the end of the year an achievable goal. But the plan must be enacted now, and with vigor. Delays and half-measures never won fair victory. As usual, General George S. Patton had it right: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”
But more fundamental than this, if we are to win in Iraq we need to start with the recognition that we have already won.
Before the war, we faced a hostile regime commanding the entire infrastructure of a fascist state. Now we face terrorists with roadside bombs. That’s a big reduction in enemy capabilities.
Toppling Saddam Hussein was a militarily achievable goal that our armed forces won splendidly — game, set, and match. We eliminated an overt enemy of the United States who had nurtured a Weapons of Mass Destruction program, who maintained a large army that fired on our planes patrolling the no-fly zones every day, and whose regime trained and harbored anti-American terrorists. And in ousting Saddam Hussein, we convinced Moammar Gaddafi to surrender his weapons of mass destruction program, and chided Pakistan into shutting down A.Q. Khan, who was the main funnel of WMD technology to rogue states. That’s no small accomplishment.
For an encore, we even guaranteed the security of three honestly conducted national elections in Iraq. That, too, was a militarily achievable goal, which we accomplished in 2005.
The problem is, once Iraq had a government, the Bush administration made a refrain of “We’ll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people.” And we’ll stay “to get the job done so long as the government wants us there.” But since when has it been a wise policy to subordinate America’s national interests to those of a foreign government, let alone an Iraqi government that has taken to vetoing or protesting American military policy?
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online