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May 02, 2007

Comments

Jeff Flint

Asking, "Do you want the President to take a different approach" is a stupid, media poll question designed to get an answer they want to hear. It's a worthless question.

From 1861 through at least 1863, if not later, I presume that if you had polled Americans in the North, and even Republicans, you would have gotten a majority to say Yes, I wish the President would take a different approach.

Does different approach mean a different strategic objective, or different generals, different secretaries of defense, and different tactics? If you don;t answer that question, then you have no point.

The President's job is to select a national security team and military leadership that can put the plan in place to achieve his strategic objectives. The President took way too long to replace the team that was failing him and the nation, and for that, he deserve blame. But I don;t think the strategic objective is wrong.

If the Democrats and Chuck Hagel had the courage of their supposed convictions, they would immediately defund the war and/or withdraw the use of force resolution that now authorizes the War in Iraq. Until they do that, they have nothing relevant to say in this debate.

And by the way, if you, like Clinton, Edwards, Kerry, and so many others, "supported" the war when we were "winning" and oppose it now when we appear to be "losing", then you are a bandwagon-jumping loser not fit for any public office, let alone the Presidency. Jumping on and off a bandwagon is fine when your favorite sports team has a bad year, doing it with the military is a joke.

Jeff

Shawn Fago

Jeff,
Well said.

Pat

Jeff,
Well said, again.

What people want is a CIC who will fight to win, damn the consequences in the NYT the next morning. I don't believe that question was asked.

SandBox

Jeff. I would accept your premise with exception.

It is becoming increasingly clear the reasons and rationale used to invade Iraq were not quite thought out as clearly as possible. It is also becoming clearer the desire for alternative actions was never fully embraced.

Given the newer realities that are forthcoming daily on those reasons the switching of positions is hardly bandwagoning. It is a pragmatic perspective that is seen by almost all save those closest to the President and Bush himself.

brian

Take A Deep Breath and Read :-)
From NATIONAL REVIEW

Get Ready for Hillary
Tough choices for the Right.

By Bruce Bartlett

As each day passes, it becomes increasingly clear that the Democrats will win the White House next year. It’s not quite 1932, but it’s getting close to a sure thing. All the energy is on their side, they are raising more money from more contributors, and there is little if any enthusiasm for the Republican candidates — even among Republicans.

Of course, one can never rule out the ability of the Democrats to seize defeat from the jaws of victory. But sometimes the trend in one party’s direction is so strong that even the grossest incompetence can’t keep it from winning. I think 2008 is shaping up as that kind of year for the Democrats.

If I am right, conservatives are going to have to make an important decision at some point. Do they go down with the sinking Republican ship, or do they try to have some meaningful influence on the next president by becoming involved in the Democratic race?

I’m sure that the first reaction of most conservatives will be to say that any involvement in the Democratic party is unthinkable. They view it as the party of treason and socialism. They could no more involve themselves in Democratic politics than a God-fearing Christian would consider working with Satan just because it looked like he was going to win.

For those of you who feel this way, stop reading. There is nothing more in this column for you. But for those conservatives who don’t see the 2008 election as a race between good and evil, but merely a contest between rivals within the same league, I think there is a good case for participating in the Democratic nominating process.

Here’s why. Although all the Democratic candidates are more liberal than all of the Republicans, they are not all equally liberal. Among the Democrats, some are more to the right and others more to the left. It is a grave mistake to assume, as most conservatives do, that they are all equally bad and that it makes no difference whatsoever which one is elected.

To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative. John Edwards is the most liberal, and Barack Obama is somewhere in between.

The hard-core right-wingers who kept reading past the point I told them to stop probably think I’ve lost my mind by now. But remember, I am talking about the politics within the Democratic Party, not the nation as a whole. Moreover, at this stage of the nominating process, all of the candidates in both parties are appealing mainly to their bases. These are well to the left of the country among Democrats and well to the right among Republicans.

It is in this context that one must evaluate Sen. Clinton’s position. Given the views of the Democratic base and the enormous unpopularity of the Iraq War, it is a real act of courage for her to steadfastly refuse to say her vote for the war was wrong. Of course, like all Democrats and most Americans, she opposes the war today and favors a rapid pullout.

That is why the easy thing for Sen. Clinton to do would be to just throw in the towel, admit her vote was wrong, and move on. And that’s why it is an act of courage for her to refuse to do so. If conservatives weren’t so blinded by their hatred for her, this would be obvious.

On economics, it is reasonable to assume that Sen. Clinton’s policies would not be altogether different from Bill Clinton’s. This is not a bad thing. On trade, his record was outstanding, and on the budget was far better than George W. Bush’s. While Clinton raised taxes in 1993, it should be remembered that he cut them in 1997, including a cut in the capital gains tax. On regulatory policy, Clinton was no worse than the current administration and probably better on net.

Democrats know all this, which is why our most liberal pundits, like Bob Kuttner, are attacking Sen. Clinton for being a clone of her husband on economics and criticizing her support for “Rubinomics,” named after former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin. Its essential elements are a commitment to deficit reduction and globalization — which are both anathema to the Democratic party’s liberal base. It wants a hard line against imports to save jobs and an expansive fiscal policy to pay for a wide range of new social programs.

At some point, politically sophisticated conservatives will have to recognize that no Republican can win in 2008 and that their only choice is to support the most conservative Democrat for the nomination. Call me crazy, but I think that person is Hillary Clinton.

© 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.




Quang

1. Jeff, first of all, it's refreshing to see a commenter/fellow blogpenner with a real name instead of anonymous posters or those using handles.

2. You referenced our Civil War, an internal conflict, without foreign intruders. I'll cite another quagmire. In 1965, when the U.S. sent combat troops to Vietnam, a Gallup poll reported only one in four Americans thought LBJ's "sending troops to Vietnam had been a mistake." Can you guess what the polls revealed in 1969, four years later? Nearly 15,400 more Americans and 107,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died during the Nixon years before he cut a deal with China, obtained the release of our POWs and secured a so-called "peace with honor." I don't have the stats for civilian casualties. That deal with Hanoi could have been agreed upon in 1969.

3. Yes, we quit in Vietnam and pulled out. But we maintained a heavy presence in Asia (Japan, Philippines, S. Korea). Strategically, Iraq is still important. We will still have presence in Kuwait, UAE, Oman and afloat. But you can't surge, plus up, build a wall, demand the Iraqis to reconcile, and continue to lead combat operations indefinitely. The objectives were vague (first WMD, now chasing AQI), the strategy ill-defined (permanent occupation of Iraq, War on Terror), the execution unsatisfactory (shock and awe/regime change/poor post-war occupation plan and not enough troops) by the civilian and military leaders (Bremer, Franks, Sanchez).

4. Define winning in Iraq. The captain/Bush must hang in and salvage the mission or go down with the ship/termed out. But why does the next captain ('08 GOP candidates) have to travel down the same path?

5. Congress sat on its hands. The generals are partly to blame and yes, there is dissent amongst the field grade officers. Read "Army Officer Accuses Generals of 'Intellectual and Moral Failures."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/26/AR2007042602230.html

Here's another article, "3 Generals Spurn the Position of War 'Czar':Bush Seeks Overseer For Iraq, Afghanistan"
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/10/AR2007041001776.html

And another from someone I worked for years ago. "Politics During Wartime" by retired Gen. Michael DeLong, Tommy Franks' #2.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/27/opinion/27delong.html

6. Hagel did vote for the bill that just got vetoed yesterday.

7. Let me tell you about "doing it with the military is a joke." When you are recalling reservists over and over again (USMC) and your Army and National Guard are called "broken" and you increase combat deployments from 12 to 15 months and suffer a "Walter Reed" snafu, that's doing it to our soldiers.

Jeff Flint

First of all, I should have said that the "you" in my earlier post was a collective "you" to people who I consider fair weather friends...people who support war when it's rosy. Not you personally, Quang. I generally enjoy your posts.

My point on the Civil War is that popular opinion about the war is often tied to how well people perceive we are doing, not whether the policy is right. That's easy for the public to do, but it's not acceptable behavior for a Commander in Chief or any pretender to that position. If the CIC believes the strategic objective is correct, then they have to stick with the objective, if not the tactics, through the good and bad patches. HOw many generals did Lincoln go through in the early part of the war.

As far as the Civil War, my understanding of that is it is not completely accurate to say it was an internal fight with no foreign involvement, but that is not a central point.

Certainly, the USA's enemies (of which Britain still was somewhat at the time? looked for signs of weakness in the North and would have jumped in if it was to their strategic advantage. That IS a relevant analogy today...the US's strategic opponents hope we lose.

I am not going to replace my knowledge of Vietnam with yours, but again, my instinct tells me that was not lost militarily, but politically. However, I have also read statistics that more North Vietnamese boys became men, i.e., became draft eligible, in a year than the US could kill in a year, so perhaps a military victory was not possible. Again, my military history studies are probably weakest on that war.

Re your #6, what was Hagel's vote on the original war authorization...that is the vote I am talking about.

Re: your #7, I don't at all disagree. But again, not relevant, except again perhaps a failing of Bush to follow through with his promise or begin early enough to grow the military back to the size and capability it should be.

My point is, what everyone should know, is that war is politics through violent means rather than non-violent. It is an instrument of national policy when non-violent means fail.

The debate about shifting rationals for war doesn't affect me too much, because I believe the rationale in 2003 *is* different than the rationale today.

We don't need to rehash the WMD debate, despite the liberals focus on that, because I think the real question there is not whether WMDs existed in 2003, but would they have existed in Iraq in 2008 or 2010 and been available for Iraq to give to a terrorist at that point.

And don't bore me either with the "Saddaam and Bin Laden hated each other" blather either, because again, not relevant. Today, we see Sunni Syria backing Shia terrorist groups in Lebanon and elsewhere, because it suits their strategic interest. We see Shia Iran helping some Sunni terror groups for the same reason.

Their strategic interest is to defeat the Unites States and drive us from the Middle East, so they can exert regional hegemony.

I don't know if we can count on Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and other "moderate Arab states" to stay so close to the US if we are driven from Iraq with our tail between our legs. Hopefully, the Kurds will hang with us, although we abandoned them once before...

So now, as strange or circular as the logic sounds, our strategic victory objective is to win, or at least not appear to lose.

We still have troops in Japan, Korea, and Germany today, 50 and 60 years after those wars, by the way.

Sorry for the somewhat rambling reply, I am dashing out to a dinner meeting.

Jeff

redperegrine

Jeff, it's really hard to know why you insist on going down with the sinking ship. Maybe it's because you you fought your battles on the bloody fields of Ohio in 2002.

I, for one, am glad that a Republican like Hagel has been forthright with the American people about the idiocy of the Iraq adventure.

Some of your earlier observations:

"If the Democrats and Chuck Hagel had the courage of their supposed convictions, they would immediately defund the war and/or withdraw the use of force resolution that now authorizes the War in Iraq. Until they do that, they have nothing relevant to say in this debate."

One of the disadvantages of a president launching off into an ill-considered military adventure is that it's very difficult later on for intelligent critics to propose a practical or politically feasible extrication plan. They are met with cries of "treason," "cowardice," or "cut and run" accusations by people who have nothing at stake in this war.

"And by the way, if you, like Clinton, Edwards, Kerry, and so many others, "supported" the war when we were "winning" and oppose it now when we appear to be "losing", then you are a bandwagon-jumping loser not fit for any public office, let alone the Presidency. Jumping on and off a bandwagon is fine when your favorite sports team has a bad year, doing it with the military is a joke."

And what's wrong with a politician, or anybody else for that matter, changing his mind when it becomes apparent that the executive authority is ignorant, intransigent, prevaricating or, at best, disengenuous in its ignorance? Neither your life, Jeff, nor mine is at stake here; but a lot of other lives are. Who is really playing games here? More despicable than the liberals who have turned color are the supposed conservatives who in their pussilanimity supported this extravagent lunacy at the outset, and who either knew, or should have known better in the first place.

"The President's job is to select a national security team and military leadership that can put the plan in place to achieve his strategic objectives. The President took way too long to replace the team that was failing him and the nation, and for that, he deserve blame. But I don;t think the strategic objective is wrong."

So Jeff, you don't think the "strategic objective" is wrong? And what strategic objective would that be, Jeff? Getting rid of Saddam's WMDs? That was accomplished before the invasion, apparently. Creating a secular Iraq as a bulwark against fundamentalist Iran? Again, accomplished before the war: remember Reagan's policy of the 80s? Uniting bitter religious enemies in a democratic, constitutional republic drawn along the contours of western democracies? How has co-existence between Sunnis and Shiites worked out so far? You have great hopes for the future?

BTW, your characterization of "good king, evil councillors" is pretty old - it had its heyday during the Divine Right of Kings" era; fortunately we are a democracy -the President (or Vice-president - as is more likely the case) can take responsibility for his own actions.

As you run out to your "business meeting," remember that it's business as usual for all of us who have had to sacrifice nothing for this war; who have had to pay no taxes for this war; who have palmed off the cost of the war on our kids. Please remember the families of the dead who have paid a price a price none of the rest of us are willing to bear, apparently. If paractical politics are your main concern, then please consider the cost of this fiasco on the Republican party and the division with people who consider themselves conservatives.

Jeff Flint

RP:

I happen to believe that there are a lot of people in the Middle East who want to convert us or kill us, or die trying. My "strategic objective" is to stop that from happening.

Europe appears very likely to be lost in our lifetimes; I hope America is not lost in my kids' lifetime.

I don't couch those types of discussions in raw political terms. It's far too important for that.

When you say "go down with the sinking ship," are you talking about the poll numbers of George W. Bush, or the survival of the Western World of personal freedom, religious tolerance, and market capitalism? You may not think the first is worth fighting for, I hope you think the latter are.

We have a military to serve as one component of our foreign policy in the national interest. I want us to win because I fear the cost of losing will be much greater. A portion of that responsibility falls to our military, with whom I have great faith.

Do I care about the cost? I care about the cost for my ten year old son who wants nothing more than to be a Navy SEAL when he grows up. Or my six year old daughter who I don't want to have to wear a burkha, unless, I suppose, she chooses to.

When I was younger, and not married, and had no kids, I volunteered for the military. I served about two years active duty, two years in the active reserves, and seven more years in the IRR. My time of service ran out, if I recall correctly, in February of 2001. So I missed 9/11/01 by seven months. In the job I had in the military, I likely would have been called.

I don't talk about it much, because I have never tried to pretend that my military service entitles me to anything, or that I am a war hero, or anything close. I never served in combat. But I volunteered and enlisted, in the reserves, after I had graduated from college, and after I had a good job in politics, because I felt I owed it to serve.

Back on the policy...

If you think that, if as the Democrats and the Hagel's have their way, we can leave Iraq and leave the Middle East having "lost," and have no negative repercussions, then their current position makes sense.

If you believe, as I do, that we will face very real, very negative consequences in the short and long term for having "lost," consequences that may cause a lot more tragedy in the future, then the only possible position is to fight, even in the face of difficult times.

I am not at all callous about the lives of soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors who have been lost. I have friends who served and currently serve in Iraq. Fortunately, no one close to me has been injured or killed.

One of the great failings of the Rumsfeld DOD is perpetuating the Clinton-era military myth that you can fight a war and no one gets hurt. "Shock and Awe," baby.

And then, of course, when the first casualties occur, or when things aren't as easy as told, the public turns.

But, we don't have a military because they look good marching at the 4th of July parade. We have a military to defend our national interest. As I said above, I believe it is our national interest to win in Iraq and by proxy, the war between the "West" and "militant Islamism" to use the terms of the day. Freedom vs. Totalitarianism works for me too.

In my mind, to hold the opposite position and have any credibility, you must either believe:

1. There is no threat and never will be a threat from the Middle East.

or

2. There is a threat, but it's not worth fighting for.

I think there is a threat, and it is worth fighting that threat to preserve our freedoms, if not tomorrow, then a couple decades from now.

Jeff

SandBox

Jeff,

Thank you for the insight to your position. I don't believe this threat is nearly as dire as you. I don't believe my daughter's wearing of a burka will be mandatory. We in the west see the extremes of a society. The same could be said of any number of groups here in the US. If they had their way, life would be dramatically different than it is now. Prior to 9/11, the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil was perpetrated by a Christian extremist. If I follow your logic we should be waging war against those within our midst. I don’t see Humvees being used as battering rams or troops calling in airstrikes on groups known to be hostile to our way of life.

What continues to bother me is every time I see a picture of downtown Baghdad, I see able bodied young men. Why aren’t they in the Iraq military fighting for their security? At what point in time do we as a nation say ENOUGH!! It is their country. They should be allowed to determine its future and direction.

This latest article only proves my point. The Iraqi Parliament is considering a two month break while US troops continue to get killed.

Iraq Lawmakers Consider Long Break

And that is why I support a time frame to pull out. If the Iraqis know there is an end date for US involvement they will be motivated to stand on their own. As it is right now there is no incentive since they have their big brother to take care of them. There are no consequences for inactivity of re-establishing the foundations of their society. That needs to change for them to continue getting my support.

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