Monday, January 08, 2007

The Shell Game Manifesto

Let's take a closer look at the Dems' Letter to the President on Iraq (my comments in bold):

January 5, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.
Right off the bat, we have to ask, is ending the war in Iraq important only because December was a bad month? How bad was it, exactly? One might think that if the trauma of December were the back-breaker, we might usefully review that butcher's bill, rather than the summary of casualties since the beginning of the enterprise. In fact 118 coalition troops were killed and 260 were wounded. By comparison 44,000 Americans were killed in automobile accidents in 2006, yet we see few calls to elevate the issue of driver safety to the forefront of political debate. The U.S. would need to remain in Iraq for another 47 years, at the current casualty rate, to equal the lives lost in a single year on U.S. highways. So we have to doubt that waving the bloody shirt of casualty-counts is the best way to formulate our policy priorities.
The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.
We understand this paragraph to indicate that the Democrats, in principle, acknowledge that "success" is in fact the goal of American policy in Iraq, but we see no definition offered of what the success would look like.
Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.
In most societies, publicly declaring that one's armed forces in combat in time of war are "at the breaking point" would be construed as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution.
This is a strawman argument. It constructs the fiction that the current administration policy has been purely military, but in fact it is the political component of the current policy of attempting to enroll the various factions into the government which has created the instability (by such things as not liquidating the Mahdi Army nor arresting al-Sadr because of the insistence of al-Maliki) which the adminstration now is attempting to address by considering additional forces. What the political solution ought to be is never examined, nor whether there might be a military component to the general political solution.
Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.
Now we see the hidden reversal--which is the key element of every successful swindle. The concession that there has been a political strategy unfolding which has trumped the military options at every juncture is unspoken but logically necessary to square the circle of arguing that the military has failed, but more military cannot redress its prior failure.
In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:
Again, note the use of the artfully undefined adjective "success."
“I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”
Now we see the double-reverse as the shell game continues. Taking a quote from a man who, at least at the time he was asked, believed in the existing political AND military strategy if he believes that additional forces will achieve the old political goals results in an answer to a completely different question than the one the Democrats keep carefully unasked throughout the letter.
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.

And now we see the steps the Democrats want laid out, as a road map to their carefully undefined vision of success, but we see no reason offered to believe this will be success, other than it being what the Democrats want at this point in time. And "phased redeployment" sounds so much better than "scoop desperate refugees off the roofs of the Embassy by helicopter while grim Marines rake the courtyard below with .50 caliber fire."

The Democrats here come perilously close to tipping their hand about the "political solution" to which they alluded above: "we cannot resolve their sectarian problems." The political solution envisioned by the Democrats ultimately seems to be to declare the problem insoluble and go home.

Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.
The fact that we have spent so much blood and treasure to achieve our objectives in Iraq would argue rather that we attempt to redeem the sunk costs, or be patently clear about our reasons for writing the investment off, but the Democrats do neither, instead arguing that the mere fact that the investment has been large is self-evident reason to end military engagement. If withdrawal offers superiour benefits to continued military engagement, those benefits need to be explicitly argued, not merely taken for granted by what is the Democrat's initial policy pronunicamento on the issue.

We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.


Harry Reid Majority Leader
Nancy Pelosi Speaker

Their view, such as it is, seems to be that they'll know success when they see it, and they'll let us know when we get there. I have to suspect that they remain tight-lipped about their vision of success because it hinges on national humiliation as a prerequisite to regaining the good graces of the multilateral international community by whose reckoning the Democrats typically calculate both America's interests and moral standing.

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