Mr. Babbin is a very knowledgeable guy, and I am sure he’s right: Iraqi troops are “getting better.” But I think he’s doing a little wishful thinking when he says they’re “respected and accepted by the population.” More accurately, I think, the Shia may respect other Shia, and the Sunnis other Sunnis, and the Kurds other Kurds (assuming clan, tribal and family rivalries don’t get in the way).
But level 1 or 2 troops aside, the larger point is that the president’s speech was just plain dumb. The fight against terrorism is not nearly the same as the old fight against Communism, no matter how hard Bush tried to equate the two. Communism was centralized, dominated by Moscow; terrorism is free-floating and often ad hoc. For example, the Bali suicide bombers, we now learn, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda.
Also in his need to simplify everything in sight, the president linked the Beslan school slaughter with “radical Islam.” In fact, Chechen-Russian animosities go back to the early Czars, and the Beslan atrocity was fueled by a sick nationalism.
The speech was the kind of thing only a Republican flack could love. On the one hand, Bush now rejects the notion of “state-sponsored terrorism”; on the other hand, Syria and Iran support the terrorists and, if I heard Bush correctly, “are equally guilty of murder.”
But you can’t have it both ways, of course, and if Bush wants to invade Syria or Iran let him say so.
And I stopped reading Victor Davis Hanson some time ago, Mr. Tabin. He’s the official historian of that parallel universe.