Just a few days after my last post Mark Steyn's column in this weeks National Review echoes all that is wrong with the Bush Sr. staffies arriving in the beltway to rescue American foreign policy with a dose of "didn't work last time" realism.
The Baker "study group" is an almost parodic exercise in grandee committee construction: not just Vernon Jordan but Sandra Day O’Connor! In the driving seat, though, are the unreal "realists" wedded to the same Middle East "stability" that gave us 9/11. The same Bush 41 crowd who wanted to keep the Soviet Union going even after the Politburo had given up on it, the same Zbigniew Brzezinski whose big idea in the Seventies was outsourcing Afghan destabilization to the House of Saud and Pakistan’s ISI, the same realpolitik guys who got the last 30 years entirely wrong - they’re all back in favor in D.C., and with the old confidence in their voice. November 7 was a vote for September 10, and a strange Pelosi-Baker alliance of the unwilling is ready to oblige.
No kidding! I forgot that the Bush 41 team were the only group of people outside of hard core Communist Party members who were dismayed that the Soviet Union fell apart!
[MSNBC] Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will not run for president in 2008, Republican officials said Wednesday, as the field of White House contenders continued to shrink more than a year before the first convention delegates are chosen.
Frist was an absolutely worthless and weak leader of the Republican Senate. Nice guy? Sure. Smart, professional, and a former doctor who has dedicated his life to public service, Frist nonetheless suffered from that great ailment that plagues so many conservatives -- an obsessive need to be liked by his opponents on the other side and in the media.
What the Republican party needs now, more than ever, is the old Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich polite but unapologetic conservativism, and Frist never had that.
"And if we [Iran] did not share a common responsibility to promote and protect freedom and human dignity and integrity; Then, there would have been little urgency to have a dialogue with you."
-- Iranian "President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his letter to the American public.
This coming from a guy whose government goes around smashing satellite dishes so his population can't receive opinions not approved by the government. This coming from a guy whose government denies his citizens the simple rights of speech, assembly or religion, let alone a state-enforced Islamic dress code (you can imagine women get the short stick on that one).
Then again, tell me what's worse -- that an oppressive Iranian dictator can so shamefully say the things he says in his "letter to the American people," or that our media so shamefully won't point out the obvious fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an oppressive dictator who refuses to give his own people the very rights he is exploiting via the American media?
By reading media reports one would think Ahmadinejad is just some uppity Canadian Holocaust denier.
Say what you will but Ahmadinejad is a master politician who understands "divide and conquer" -- hence all of his references to liberal hot-button issues:
On Iraq, he said that with a constitution and government now in place, "would it not be more beneficial to bring the U.S. officers and soldiers home, and to spend the astronomical U.S. military expenditures in Iraq for the welfare and prosperity of the American people?"
"As you know very well, many victims of Katrina continue to suffer, and countless Americans continue to live in poverty and homelessness," he said.
What a hoot! Bush is a war-monger, Katrina, bring home your troops, Katrina, save your military budget for more welfare programs, Katrina, think of the homeless! All that was missing was a statement about global warming. What a politician! He might be able to challenge Barak Obama in 2008.
Speaking of that, you have to hand it to the global warming scaremongers. Ever year is supposed to be an even worse hurricane season, and that's - naturally! - due to the unproven junk science of global warming (just trust us, really). But when said predictions aren't quite as catastrophic as promised? Well, that's just luck.
MIAMI (AP) - The mild 2006 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close Thursday without a single hurricane striking the United States - a stark contrast to the record-breaking 2005 season that killed more than 1,500 people and left thousands homeless along the Gulf Coast.
Nine named storms and five hurricanes formed this season, and just two of the hurricanes were considered major. That is considered a near-normal season - and well short of the rough season government scientists had forecast.
"We got a much-welcome break after a lot of the coast had been compromised in the last several years, but this is a one-season type break," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In May, scientists predicted 13 to 16 named storms and eight to 10 hurricanes, with four to six of them major.
Survey Says! Errrrrnt - wrong answer.
That takes balls, my friends, coming from the scientific community: let me see if I understand - bad hurricane equals global warming. No bad hurricanes equal luck.
Well, it seems to me that if luck is a factor for a lack of damaging hurricanes than luck must too be a factor for the presence of damaging hurricanes.
BEIRUT, Nov. 21 -- Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a vocal opponent of Syrian involvement in the country and a leader of the country's Maronite Christian minority, was assassinated in Beirut Tuesday, intensifying an already volatile situation and pushing the country's government a step closer to collapse.
The geo-political winds are shifting dramatically. Those who support unilateral withdraw from Iraq have taken Congress; Iraqi leaders are expected to soon meet with peers of Iran and Syria; today a Lebanese speaker of freedom and democracy is murdered like former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005; State Department officers caught on tape denouncing the US before foreign press are not rebuked, but rather given honors; so-called paleo-realists like James Baker of the Iraq Study Group are as sure to become all-knowing media darlings as were the 9-11 commissioners before them; and another realist of old, Robert Gates, replaces Don Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.
So it seems we forget the lessons of September 11, 2001, and cynically slip back into a world where stability trumps freedom.
In 2003, President Bush told the National Endowment for Democracy that "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty."
Likewise, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in 2005, "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region [the Middle East], and we achieved neither." This theme continued until recently, just recently. Now suddenly the Bush team seems content to hand the reigns of foreign policy over to the likes of Baker.
James Baker. A man who had no problem selling out the Kurds in the first Gulf War. That's paleo-realism. One of the changes the Iraq Study Group is expected to suggest is for the US to open cooperative communication with Iraq's neighbors including Syria and Iran. This isn't realism. It's a fantasy to think that countries who deny their own citizens freedoms of speech, religion or assembly would assist their protection in Iraq. James Baker knows this, and the groups endorsement of promoting stability over all else is inevitable.
That the Syrian-Hezbollah entity would choose this moment to murder Gemayel thus should not be such a surprise. As Michael Young wrote in the Wall Street Journal today, "It was music to Syrian President Bashar Assad's ears to hear James Baker, the Republican co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, advocating dialogue with Syria and Iran in an interview last month: "I don't think you restrict your conversations to your friends." The Iraq Study Group's report, expected in the coming weeks, will possibly include such an invitation. Syria's Lebanese foes fear they will pay if the U.S. and Damascus cut a deal."
"If so, it wouldn't be the first time for Mr. Baker. In 1990, he was a leading light in President George H.W. Bush's administration, which ceded Lebanon to Syria in exchange for President Hafez Assad's agreement to be part of the international coalition against Iraq. An inveterate "realist," Mr. Baker is not likely to balk at negotiating with Mr. Assad if it means the U.S. can buy some peace of mind as it transforms its presence in Iraq."
In short, if should we gain some stability in Iraq, it will be at the immediate expense of freedom in Lebanon and the Middle East. And only a fool would think that, if such stability indeed originates in Damascus and Tehran, if they truly have the power to turn on and off stabilizing forces there, it would continue unabated. That which government bestows it can take away. This is especially true when dealing with military dictatorships and illiberal theocracies.
Perhaps I'm being overly cynical.
But then again, perhaps in another 60 years American dignitaries will be uttering something similar to the "stability at the expense of liberty" theme because we first sold out Iraq for the cheap promises of cooperation from Iran and Syria; Because we then refused to take action while Iran proliferated nuclear weapons; Because we still refused to show Syria that there are global consequences for assassinating the leaders of pro-democratic neighbors; Because we left Israel, the only liberal democracy in the region, to be "wiped off the map" by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.
What say ye, Karl Rove? After a firm butt-whooping is Rove up to the task of engaging a strategy of divide-and-conquor against the Democrat majorities in the House and Senate? Or will the deflated Bush team simply cave into weekly approval ratings by continuing their trend of moving away from the base?
A couple of interesting tidbits regarding that:
First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lost her first battle, and lost it bad. In a 149-86 vote Democrats appointed Steny Hoyer over Pelosi's favorite, the leftist anti-war appeasement-first blowhard John Murtha.
This could be a good sign that perhaps the new Democrats aren't going to be as liberal as Republicans feared. It makes sense considering that the battles lost were those states where two more center-leaning candidates on either side were pitted one against the other.
What's interesting about this, and what brings Rove and Bush back into the equation, is that Ronald Reagan faced a very similar situation in the early 1980s. Newt Gingrich explains:
On the other hand, a conservative populist grassroots strategy would almost certainly make daily interactions with liberal leaders more confrontational as they found themselves nominally chairing committees but losing votes on the floor and having their initiatives rejected by a conservative grassroots coalition. With a conservative populist grassroots strategy it is the 44 Blue Dog Democrats who would find themselves cross-pressured. In the House, some 54 Democrats won by claiming they were much more conservative than Nancy Pelosi, and much more conservative than the San Francisco values she represents. Here, they would be forced to choose between their voters back home and the promises made to them during the campaign, and their leadership.
Ironically, the very nature of the Democratic victory makes it possible to re-establish the conservative Democrat and House Republican coalition which made the Reagan legislative victories of 1981-82 possible. Tip O'Neill was the liberal Democratic speaker when Reagan became president, but he did not have a liberal majority in the House. Yet despite a seemingly liberal Democrat lock in a 242-192 majority, they lost control of the floor on the most important bill of Reagan's first term. His tax cuts were initially passed 238-195 with 48 Democrats splitting from the leadership and siding with Reagan and the GOP. The final passage of the conference report passed 282-95, with a 113-vote Democratic majority siding with Reagan and only 95 liberal democrats voting "no."
I was a sophomore during this exciting Reagan first term and I learned from him the art of appealing to the American people to win votes in Washington. When we passed welfare reform in 1996, the Democrats split 98 "yes" and 98 "no." When we passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the Democrats split 153 "yes" and only 52 diehard liberals voted "no."
If President Bush decides to govern as President Reagan did, he will work to unify the Blue Dog Democrats with the Republicans to win a handful of very large victories while accepting a constant barrage of unhappiness from the liberal leadership. That is what conservative bipartisanship is like. If on the other hand, President Bush decides on an establishment strategy of cooperating with the liberal leadership, he will guarantee splitting his own party and will see his legacy drift further and further to the left as the Pelosi-Reid wing of their party demands more and more concessions.
Now the bad news we all know, the 2-ton elephant sitting in the room -- George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan. Given the lack of fight from the Bush team from everything from permanent tax cuts to judicial nominations to kowtowing rhetoric on global warming, we shouldn't get our hopes up.
Then again, Bush isn't nearly as bad as the GOP in Congress. When I read that Mel Martinez was going to become the new chair of the Republican National Committee - and pass the Pepto please, claimed he wouldn't be a Republican "attack dog" (and isn't that the freaking job of a party committee head?) - I thought, well, it can't get much worse. But wait there's more. Call it back to the future, because by a 25-24 vote Republicans in the Senate nominated Trent Lott to the number two spot (Kentucky's Mitch McConnell will be Senate minority leader.)
Are you kidding me? Trent Lott? It's bad enough that Trent Lott spends more taxpayer money than a drunken Ted Kennedy, but the Democrats get to perpetually play the race card too -- you'll recall Lott's stupid statement implying Strom Thurmond's segregationist policies were right which got him removed as Senate majority leader in the first place.
And this just in: the 2007 Congress is scheduled to vote on bills totaling 10,000 pork projects. Here's your money quote:
This year, Congress did not address the looming spending tidal wave of Social Security and Medicare but did decide that State Street in Madison, Wis., could use some upgrades. Congress did not pass comprehensive immigration legislation, but it did decide that the public swimming pool in Banning, Calif., could use another $500,000 in renovations. Vital national issues go ignored by lawmakers who are instead focused on whether a certain intersection in Westchester County, N.Y., needs a traffic light.
Sigh... Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Sen. Inhofe -- now there's a Republican whose not afraid to speak his mind even when it risks demonization by the media.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate's most vocal global warming skeptic, James Inhofe, on Thursday dismissed a U.N. meeting on climate change as "a brainwashing session."
Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who will step down as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, told a news conference, "The idea that the science (on global warming) is settled is altogether wrong."
A majority of scientists, many in the U.S. government, accept that global warming is spurred by human actions and the emission of greenhouse gases. President George W. Bush said as much in July at a summit of industrialized nations.
Inhofe said he acknowledged that the planet is warming but disputed those who attribute it to human activity and the emission of greenhouse gases. Instead, he blamed climate change on natural cycles.
As an example of U.N. brainwashing at this week's climate change meeting in Nairobi, Inhofe held up a children's book he said was distributed at the gathering, called "Tore and the Town on Thin Ice."
He said the book, the tale of a fictional young Arctic villager who becomes aware of global warming when his dogsled crashes through thinning ice, relies on disputed science.
"This is paid for by the United Nations and it's brainwashing little kids," Inhofe said.
Well that means about 25 percent of the brainwashing book was paid for by the US taxpayer.
As if Inhofe's point wasn't enough, the WSJ today quipped another reminder of why the United Nations is nothing more than an obstructionist debating committee that bestoys legtimacy to a collection of illegitimate governments never elected by their host populations:
When the U.N.'s Human Rights Council came into existence earlier this year over U.S. objections, we argued that the new organization offered no improvements over the discredited Human Rights Commission it replaced. Turns out we were wrong: The new Council has been worse.
Among the many problems with the old Commission -- other than a membership that included Zimbabwe, Sudan and Cuba -- was its obsessive focus on Israel. As legal scholar Anne Bayefsky has pointed out, in 40 years the Commission dedicated more than a quarter of its resolutions to scoring Israel while never once condemning repression in China.
It was partly for this reason that the old Commission had to go, and why solons such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch and former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth of the U.N. Foundation urged the Bush Administration to endorse the Council, with Mr. Wirth describing it as "an important step forward in the fight for global human rights."
That was in March. The Council has since not been able to agree on a resolution condemning the government of Sudan for its atrocities in Darfur. Instead, the sole object of its censures to date has been -- drum roll, please -- Israel.
In July, the Council condemned Israeli operations in the West Bank and Gaza, which had been prompted by the killing of two Israeli soldiers in Israel and the hostage-taking of a third. In August it cited Israel for "massive violations of human-rights" in Lebanon, never mind the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah that had caused the war. Now the Council has dispatched "fact-finders" to Gaza to report on the latest fighting.
We won't hold our breath waiting for a balanced report. Meantime, perhaps Messrs. Roth and Wirth can reflect on what their credulity has achieved.
People and pundits alike can say many things about this election - and they do - but one thing they cannot say is that it was a surprise.
Let's start with the obvious: Iraq.
Even people who don't perceive it as a loss perceive it as a stalemate, at least for now. Even uber optimists like myself, who still believe we can meet our objectives there, concede there need to be some sharp angular changes in strategy.
On the former group, the defeatists who call it a loss, I would argue their ignorance, or at least self-fulfilling prophecy. The enemy certainly doesn't think he's winning, although I am sure they are emboldened by the election result. (Example, Islamic Jihad spokesman Muhammad Saadi told media last week that Democrat's talk of withdraw made him "Very proud from the great successes of the Iraqi resistance. This success that brought the big superpower of the world to discuss a possible withdrawal.") For all the failures of Donald Rumsfeld's strategy the Democrats are dangerously weak and shortsighted on defense. Period. And I remind you that our soldiers fighting in Iraq know this, themselves warning Democrats what horrors would occur with a premature pullout.
Rumsfeld resigned today, or was fired, although which matters not, and this perhaps signals that shift. But it didn't have to be this way. Much of this comes down to the Republicans failing in their message on Iraq. Much of this failure was laid out before the war begun - concentrating far too much on WMD and not the importance of countering Islamic extremism with liberty. And I don't mean to say I ever thought it could happen quickly. In my mind it was always going to take generations. But plant the damn seed. We saw moments where the Bush team would recognize their failed message - such as recently correctly terming the enemy as Islamic fascists, as opposed to the vague "terrorists" - only to later back down. Such back and forth hurt the base's morale.
Will that change? I'm not so sure. But then again, my attitude on war has profoundly changed. My feelings are conflicted. No, I'm not some hold-hands-and-share-a-coke-hippy all the sudden, so let me explain myself. For a long time I believed that in order to fight insurgents you had to become the insurgent. Call it Rumsfeld plus one. That is, Rummy often stated that to truly fight terrorists you couldn't roll out your conventional forces. Rather you had to use lots of black ops, and give more free reign to the military in matters of intelligence. We saw much of this. Rumsfeld also pushed for the increase in size of special forces, making him an even greater marked man with traditional military brass -- canceling howitzer programs to increase Special Op funding isn't very popular in the Pentagon or on the Hill. For my two cents, I felt we need to triple or quadruple teams like SEALS, Delta, Green Berets and heightened forces like Rangers.
But then you start to remember history.
I've thought a lot about Iraq in the past couple years and have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to fight a war unless you're willing to kill vast numbers of persons, civilians included. That may sound cold on the surface but consider that we (and allies) killed 6 million Germans and 4 million Japanese. People say our new enemy is fanatical, but I don't think they are any more fanatical than Bushido code Japanese kamikazes or hard-core Nazis. Take Iwo Jima - there were 22,000 Japs and we only captured about 100 when it was over, and at high cost, meaning they fought almost down to the last man. I'm convinced that the current surgical pick-and-choose, shock-and-awe crap just won't work. Maybe more hardened Iraqi troops can do what we can't - that's the hope - but it's a little too late for US air and land power to escalate like that in Iraq.
I'm also convinced that had our media been present in the early 40s we would not have won that war. Which brings me to my next point: Old media.
Can you imagine our current media covering the Second World War? What would they have said when in the first day - D-Day - of the Normandy invasion there were 9,000 casualties? How would they have reported when General Patton's Third Army ran out of fuel outside of Metz, France? Would they have demanded FDR fire Secretary of War Henry Stimson? When the German Army beat US troops in the Netherlands - whole American regiments surrendering, and prolonging the war for another year - would our media have called it a Tet Offensive before they ever met Tet? Some scholars have estimated that the atomic bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima (about 214,000 dead) spared the lives of about 1 million Japanese and tens of thousands of US soldier deaths had an invasion been necessary - would our media have covered such an angle? Or would Truman been labeled as "the same as Hitler and Tojo"?
The Republican party may have underestimated the power and influence the old media still have. Heck, I did. Nonetheless, the Big 3 alone of CBS, NBC, ABC each get about 8 million viewers nightly, and that's without an alphabet soup of help from CNN, MSNBC, PBS and so on. They tried try again -- What they couldn't do with 20-year-old DUI accusations, Enron or forged National Guard documents they were finally able to do with Abramoff and Mark Foley. Never mind that a Democrat, William Clinton of Louisana, was caught red-handed with $90,000 cash bribe money in his freezer (and on tape too). The American public would only know of Republican scandals in this election cycle. And in return, the GOP self destructed. It spend too much time pointing fingers at one another and playing defense - yes, defense can be important of course, but in this case they played defense as poorly as the Bucs.
But in the end the true lesson of this election is an old lesson -- you cannot win without your base. And you cannot alienate your base to court moderates. And I'd argue you court more moderates by staying true to the base.
Bush really let down conservatives, especially in the last 2 years. But that disappointment has been building steadily for years. The GOP Congress let the base down even more.
The Senate redefined spinelessness. But disaster took form once the pride of the GOP, the House majority that hadn't ruled since Civil War Reconstruction, the House that Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich masterfully built, began to cave on its conservative values as well. This was devastating to morale of the conservative.
One cannot forget your base while courting moderates and win. This is an old lesson and clearly the maestro that created the victories in 2000, 2002 and 2004, Karl Rove, took his strategy too far. As a result I think he should be fired.
But everyone saw this coming. They stretched more and more to the middle on too many things conservatives feel important.
I'll give you an example. I was discussing by Email the election results with two other friends, both conservative but at varying degrees. We vary on our opinions from issue to issue, but by the time Karl Rove had moved leftwards a little on everything he had managed to alienate all three of us. To the point of not voting? Not for me and I don't know of them. But the point is the atmosphere of lethargy and defeat was well in the air. And you know when I had my first "uh-oh" moment, the first time I realized that George W. Bush wasn't going to be as conservative as I'd like? Believe it or not in 2002, and with all things the steel tariffs -- funny almost, how something that didn't even affect me personally nonetheless offended my sense of Adam Smith conservative economics. From there every little move left on any little issue caught my attention.
And so here we are. Will the Republicans be tough enough to give the Democrats a taste of their own medicine? Will they use that 60-seat filibuster rule the Democrats warped for every issue? Will Bush be willing to pardon Donald Rumsfeld the day after they charge him in a House show-trial, or perhaps Scooter Libby now that we know Joe Wilson lied through his teeth? Will Bush veto a bill? Probably not to all of the above. At least I doubt it.
It's pretty rare these days I listen to or read Rush Limbaugh but Drudge posted a link to Limbaugh, saying he felt "liberated," and I think Rush made three very important but wordy points.
First: Bush is a politician, not a conservative.
Second: Blood is in the water, and the Democrats are the sharks.
Third: We'll be back.
Let's start with the president's press conference. It's clear he believes the Democrats won the election; that means that they get what they want. In fact, CNN, some info babe on CNN, a few minutes ago said, "For the first time, for the first time, is Bush listening?" So it's working, from the White House standpoint. They're getting sympathy, and they're getting compassionate reporting and they want to turn the boat around. They want to go back to Crawford with their 68% approval number. This is a desire that all elected officials have.
Human nature is always to be loved; that nature often conflicts with being a good leader.
My experience has always been that when you give the left a scalp, they just want more. So who will be their next target? Condoleezza Rice? Cheney? I can tell you that some of the fringe kook Democrats, it remains to be seen since they bombed out with their chosen candidate Ned Lament, just how much influence they're going to have over Democrats' governing, but they're going to make demands for Rumsfeld to be brought up with war crimes investigations in Congress. I think some Republicans are going to say, "It's a smart political move to get rid of Rumsfeld. Just get that distraction off the table. Do it now. Don't wait 'til the end of the year. Do it now and take that issue off the table for the Democrats." The problem is my experience in the past is it doesn't take issues off the table, it just makes them hungrier. It just makes them say: "Okay, we got one scalp. We can go get another."
We've been through this countless times, but I don't think conservatism is going to dwindle off into the twilight and be invisible at midnight and never return. This is what people were saying in 1976 when Reagan lost to Ford, and Ford lost to Carter. Those were dark days, folks! But then along came Jimmy Carter. (Malaise Speech) You can always count on the Democrats, at some point, to revive conservatism in this country by being who they are -- and who they are is very liberal as we all know. The normal ebb and flow and cyclical nature of politics is obvious. It's just so damn frustrating to have made such progress in 1994 and it happened here again. Two years after '94, the conservatives made the mistake of thinking that the country had become conservative, and they stopped being ideological, and they stopped teaching. They stopped leading a movement and began what they began. It happened here again. The assumption that: "Okay, conservatism is in power now. The people know who we are. They like who we are. Stop teaching." You can never stop teaching.
There are four key lessons to be learned from Saddam Hussein’s conviction and the death penalty he was correctly given.
First, the Iraqi people are far better off today under the rule of law than under the rule of a dictator who killed at least 300,000 of his own people.
Second, we were right to replace this evil man in order to give the Iraq people the chance to work and fight toward building a self-governing nation.
Third, it sends a warning to every other dictator on the planet from Kim Jung Il in North Korea to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to the head of the Sudanese dictatorship: When you kill, torture, and destroy your own people, don’t be surprised that when given the chance, your people in turn destroy you.
Fourth and finally, it should teach us all one more lesson about the current destructive nature of the United Nations that having failed to protect the Iraqi people from Saddam, they immediately had their high commissioner talk about saving Saddam from the penalty chosen for him by an Iraqi court — death.
— Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House
For the invasion or against it, anyone with a reasonable mind understand that were we to pull out of Iraq - as so many influential 2006 election-year Democrats suggest - disaster would follow, and not just in Baghdad. Today's Washington Post reports a rather sad commentary on our times, in which troops are almost issuing a cry for help and promise that all they fought for will not be in vein.
With a potentially historic U.S. midterm election on Tuesday and the war in Iraq a major issue at the polls, many soldiers said the United States should not abandon its effort here. Such a move, enlisted soldiers and officers said, would set Iraq on a path to civil war, give new life to the insurgency and create the possibility of a failed state after nearly four years of fighting to implant democracy.
"Take us out of that vacuum -- and it's on the edge now -- and boom, it would become a free-for-all," said Lt. Col. Mark Suich, who commands the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment just south of Baghdad. "It would be a raw contention for power. That would be the bloodiest piece of this war."
The soldiers declined to discuss the political jousting back home, but they expressed support for the Bush administration's approach to the war, which they described as sticking with a tumultuous situation to give Iraq a chance to stand on its own.
Leading Democrats have argued for a timeline to bring U.S. troops home, because obvious progress has been elusive, especially in Baghdad, and even some Republican lawmakers have recently called for a change in strategy. But soldiers criticized the idea of a precipitate withdrawal, largely because they believe their hard work would go for naught.
Capt. Jim Modlin, 26, of Oceanport, N.J., said he thought the situation in Iraq had improved between his deployment in 2003 and his return this year as a liaison officer to Iraqi security forces with the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, based here on FOB Sykes outside Tall Afar. Modlin described himself as more liberal than conservative and said he had already cast his absentee ballot in Texas. He said he believed that U.S. elected officials would lead the military in the right direction, regardless of what happens Tuesday.
"Pulling out now would be as bad or worse than going forward with no changes," Modlin said. "Sectarian violence would be rampant, democracy would cease to exist, and the rule of law would be decimated. It's not 'stay the course,' and it's not 'cut and run' or other political catchphrases. There are people's lives here. There are so many different dynamics that go on here that a simple solution just isn't possible."
Pray for these people - they are the sacrificers whom the Kerry Democrats label as stupid victims, but are nothing more than loyal, honorable and dedicated fighters preserved to give to Iraqis the same freedoms which you and I take for granted on a daily basis.
Democrats, meanwhile, demand we apply a "timeline" or "exit strategy" rule when such things were never before applied in any US war, be it the Revolution, Civil War or Second World War. We have troops to this day in Japan and Germany. We have troops in Korea. Just this year US troops left the Balkans - an enterprise Democrat President Bill Clinton began in the early 1990s. And they have the gall to demand a timeline for Iraq, after Clinton promised in 1995 to bring them home with 12 months?
Yet even isolationist blowhards like Pat Buchanan were saying we were quagmired in the Balkans back in the 1990s. They were wrong then - we stopped the bloodshed and took down a dictator - as they are today about Iraq.
The war in Iraq is for Democrats and their allies in the media nothing more than a numbers game - daily death counts, days in progress, dollars spent, and so on. What would the current crop of Democrats say were the war dead to reach 620,000 -- the total dead of the US Civil War? Were within just one day the casualty rate to hit 26,000 -- as at Antietam? Were the expense to hit $1 trillion dollars -- as the Civil War is compared to today's real dollars?
Would they have demanded from Lincoln a timeline or exit strategy? We probably know the answer to that, given their lack of fortitude. And indeed, in Lincoln's time he was daily assailed for conducting a difficult and costly war. Thank god he did not cut and run back then.
And I pray no matter the election result neither will we now. The war in Iraq is of course no American Civil War, nor is it really comparable with any previous war. But who is to say that what we do, or perhaps fail to do, will not have ever-lasting, ever-reaching and dire consequences for our homeland should we fail.
I leave you with a quote from Lincoln: "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or to detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far nobly so advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
A new birth of freedom is yet possible in Iraq. But only if we stay.
Per wannabe-speaker Nancy Pelosi, if the Democrats don't take control of the House of Representatives it must mean that the Republicans cheated! Call it pre-emptive conspiracy theory.
"I know where the numbers are in these races, and I know that they are there for the 15; today (it's) 22 to 26," Pelosi said Friday.
Pelosi cautioned that the number of Democratic House victories could be higher or lower and said her greatest concern is over the integrity of the count -- from the reliability of electronic voting machines to her worries that Republicans will try to manipulate the outcome.
"That is the only variable in this," Pelosi said. "Will we have an honest count?"
Everybody clear on that? If the Democrats win enough seats to take control it was an honest election. If they don't the election must have been stolen.
Fracking ridiculous. Republicans have certainly screwed themselves and lost their way in the past couple years but if there's one consistency in this world it's that Democrats will be absolutely shameless in their election-year conspiracy theory scare-mongering.
October 27, 2006
To get some perspective on Iraq and Afghanistan, let's revisit the previous decade's big nation-building project. Eleven years after U.S.-led forces went into Bosnia and seven after Kosovo, the Balkans remain prone to violence and riven by sectarian tensions. The scale of the difficulties wasn't appreciated at the start. Yet the alternative to the uneasy peace there today was -- and remains -- misery and instability on Europe's southeastern flank.
Tough decisions now loom for the Balkans, testing nerves and American leadership. By year's end, Kosovo is to move toward "final status," which to everyone but Serbia and Russia means independence. This will take finesse, so as not to push Serbia into the wilderness or rattle the weak multi-ethnic constructs in Bosnia and Macedonia. The U.S. and Europeans are also sure to come into conflict with Russia over Kosovo.
This tussle is Slobodan Milosevic's last gift to the world. In suing for peace with NATO in 1999, the late strongman made sure Kosovo stayed Serbia's on paper, and the U.S. and the Europeans let him get away with it. Though NATO troops and a U.N. government set up camp, and Belgrade no longer held sway, Serbians could indulge the fantasy that Kosovo wasn't gone for good.
The problem has festered for seven years. A U.N. negotiator, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, tried and failed to negotiate a solution. Milosevic's democratically elected successors aren't willing to take the blame for the loss of Kosovo, and Kosovar Albanian expectations were raised so high about sovereignty that their leaders had nothing left to negotiate. Mr. Ahtisaari called off the talks, and went to work on a plan for the Security Council.
The open secret is that the Finn will propose independence, but the timing and details are contentious. Both are worth sweating over. In an unstated quid pro quo, the internationals will hold off on Kosovo until Serbia holds parliamentary elections and gets a government with a four-year mandate, presumably enough time for voters to forget the loss.
But the Serbs must first call the poll, probably slated for early December, after this weekend's referendum on a new constitution, which was drawn up when Montenegro left their rump union earlier this year. (Shrinking is a Serbian speciality.) Though the constitution reasserts the claim to Kosovo, that clause is hardly legitimate, not least since the Kosovar Albanians didn't have a say in its drafting or ratification.
Any delay beyond early December risks the renewal of ethnic violence last seen in the spring of 2004, when the Kosovar Albanians rioted. In a telephone interview this week, U.S. envoy for Kosovo, Frank Wisner, told us by phone from Pristina that America remains committed to bringing the issue before the Security Council by the end of December.
Our sources tell us that the Ahtisaari plan takes inspiration from the sovereignty with strings attached granted Germany in 1949. Kosovo may not get a U.N. seat or a standing army for a while. It won't be called "conditional independence," but it'll be conditioned. Though Belgrade wants to carve away the Serb-dominated regions of northern Kosovo, partition is not on the table. It is, however, the reality on the ground and minority Serbs, the victims of ethnic cleansing since 1999, deserve reassurances about security. As do Serbs in Serbia proper about their religious sites in Kosovo.
Structured this way, with doors kept open to the EU and NATO on the ground, an independent Kosovo could thrive as other small, new European countries have. The wild card is Russia. Vladimir Putin recently tied the fate of Kosovo to unresolved territorial disputes in his own backyard. If Kosovo wins independence, he asked, why not the Russian-run breakaway regions of Georgia -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia? (By this reasoning, Russian Chechnya should also be a candidate for a U.N. seat but by now we shouldn't expect this Kremlin regime to be rational.)
So add Kosovo to Iran, Sudan, the Caucasus and other flashpoints where Mr. Putin works overtime to sabotage American policy. Russia may find an ally in China, nervous about "precedents" for Tibet and Taiwan. With Europe preferring to react than act in the Balkans, as in general on foreign affairs, Washington will be charged with pushing any resolution through the Security Council.
Of all the arguments thrown in the way of Kosovo independence, the territorial-integrity one holds up least well. Kosovo is a unique case -- a U.N.-run region that once belonged to a now defunct state, Yugoslavia. Serbia has little legal, much less moral, claim on Kosovo. Milosevic's ethnic cleansing campaigns struck the final nails in that coffin. The "threat" to Bosnia and Macedonia is another canard. Both countries have legitimate constitutions that prohibit secession.
As ever, Balkan politics are a mess, and loud nationalists grab a lot of the attention. In the West's 12 years in the region, lots of money went to waste, empowering extremists and fostering corruption. Mass murderers like Radovan Karadzic are on the lam. NATO will need to stay on in Kosovo for many years, and the U.S. and Europe will have to remain engaged in other ways. But who can reasonably claim it's not worth it?
No two conflict zones are the same. By quirk of timing, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan are all now at turning points. If the world has learned anything in the past decade plus, it's that trying to rebuild war-torn nations takes great amounts of perseverance, hard work -- and most of all time. In 1995, Bill Clinton promised to bring the GIs home from Bosnia within 12 months. The last U.S. troops left earlier this year.
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