Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Dangerous Psychopath

That this man was allowed to hold the office of President of the United States for two terms is an abomination, on the scale of electing Caligula - we are truly fortunate to still have a stable republic, post Bubba...Rome survived Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula - we should not assume that temping fate will serve us better than she did Pax Romana...T

Haven’t you missed Bill Clinton? The above YouTube will remind you why.

Actually, much of the blame for the debased state of our modern politics rightly lies at Clinton’s feet. When ordinary people dream of being president, they don’t harbor visions of enacting a micro-agenda that focuses on minutiae like school uniforms, midnight basketball and drive-through deliveries (which Clinton often incorrectly labeled “drive-by deliveries”, a term that made absolutely no sense). For a purely political creature like Bill Clinton, it was all about having power. Doing something or anything with that power was a side thought.

In the YouTube above, Clinton conflates the attacks on General David Petraeus with the former POTUS’ fanciful reminisces of political attacks on John Kerry and Max Cleland. Normally, I question Bill Clinton’s sincerity any time his lips are moving, but in this clip he shows that little flash of indignant anger that indicates you’re getting a glimpse at the man’s core.

Of course he would see no difference between a couple of office-seekers and a man who is leading 160,000 American soldiers in combat. Everything for this man has always been about politics. The notion of a figure who transcends politics probably makes as much sense to Bill Clinton as the idea of a man who transcends gravity.

Bill Clinton may have been the master of the game, but his philosophical heirs are still at work at organizations like and the Daily Kos. They, too, view everything as political and couldn’t possibly understand why a Four Star General leading 160,000 troops in harm’s way shouldn’t be treated as a partisan enemy. It takes the political deftness of Bill Clinton to makes his rubbish remotely sellable, talents that the likes of Eli Pariser and Markos Moulitsas happily lack.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Return on Success?

The tide continues to turn. The phrase "Axis of Evil" - widely derided by the gilded elites - is turning out to be as accurate as the original "Axis" was. We defeated them at the cost of MILLIONS of lives. We have lost some 3,500 in Iraq in 6 years, which to the media and democrats today is synonymous with defeat! they are anti-American to the core, and Roosevelt or Lincoln would have had them imprisoned, without thinking twice.

We now have troops on Iran's western and eastern borders in some great force. Two legs of the Axis remain to be kicked out from under the stool - we'd better get on with it...T

For most of the last year, the dominant narrative in most media, and for most voters, has been that we are getting nowhere in Iraq and that the Democrats, after their victory in last November's elections, are going to get out of Iraq.

But events are not playing out that way. Last week, the Senate failed to pass an amendment that would have made it more difficult to rotate troops into Iraq -- and passed, by a 72-to-25 margin, a resolution denouncing the ad that attacked "General Betray Us" for "cooking the books."

Polls show that the public approves of Petraeus' performance and endorses his recommendations for going forward with the surge -- the first margin of approval for the administration's course of action in a long time.

Petraeus argued convincingly that we are making real progress in Iraq, that the downward spiral of violence has been turned around and that the battle against al-Qaida in Iraq is meeting with success. George W. Bush, in a Roosevelt Room interview with columnists, made it plain that he is determined to provide Petraeus with the troops he needs, and the Democratic Congress has made it plain that it will not stop him.

To be sure, Petraeus has recommended reducing forces, starting in December, and going back to pre-surge levels next summer. But this is a far different thing from what the Democrats had in mind six months ago. And the results on the ground seem to be far different from what they expected.
True, some Democrats persist in saying that the aggressive surge strategy has made no difference, and large numbers of voters are not convinced that it has. But it is now possible that the added troops will, in Bush's phrase, "return on success." That's a sharp change from what has been the dominant narrative.

Another event that undermines that narrative took place on Sept. 6, but only began to be appreciated in Washington last week. That was the Israeli air attack on Syria. Israeli officials have said nothing in public about this (although opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said he supported the action), and Bush flatly refused to comment in his press conference. But on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens speculated that "the least unlikely possibility" was that the target was a North Korean nuclear installation.

North Korean technicians were known to be in Syria, and the North Korean government protested the attack. By Friday, The Washington Post reported that "Israel's decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, said U.S. government sources."

Bush has been mocked for calling Iraq, Iran and North Korea "the axis of evil." Suddenly that doesn't seem so far-fetched. Iran's ally Syria has apparently been in cahoots with faraway North Korea. And perhaps Iran has been, as well; perhaps this was part of the mullahs' efforts to get their hands on nuclear weapons.

The Syrian program may have been stopped by Israel's Sept. 6 air strike, just as Saddam Hussein's nuclear program was stopped by Israel's destruction of his Osirak reactor in 1981. That was condemned by just about everyone at the time, including the Reagan administration. But today almost every decent person is glad it happened.

The response to Petraeus and the emerging story about the Israeli air strike lead to two conclusions, both at odds with what has been the dominant narrative. It's a dangerous world. And we can make progress. Advocates of speedy withdrawal from Iraq talk as if there would be no bad consequences afterward, as we face no other threats in the world. But the possibility of a nuclear Iran is a real threat, one which Bush says he gives as much attention to as Iraq. The success so far of the surge strategy and the apparent success of the Israeli air strike indicate that there are things we can do to meet those threats.

The dominant narrative is that we are headed to defeat in Iraq, and Bush's political adversaries want him to acknowledge that. With stubbornness or steadfastness -- call it either one -- he has refused to do so and now has started to establish a different narrative, "return on success." Voters may come to understand that however delicious the Democrats find defeat, its consequences in a dangerous world would be devastating.
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Friday, September 14, 2007

A 'Realistic Chance' of Success

Amen - the tide is turning at last...T

As always, the inadvertent slip is the most telling. Discussing the performance of British troops, Gen. David Petraeus told Sen. Joe Biden of the Foreign Relations Committee that he'd be consulting with British colleagues in London on his way back "home." He had meant to say "Iraq," where he is now on his third tour of duty. Is there any other actor in Washington's Iraq war drama -- from Harry Reid to the Joint Chiefs -- who could have made such a substitution? Anyone who not only knows Iraq the way Petraeus does but feels it in all its gravity and complexity?

When asked about Shiite militia domination of southern Iraq, Petraeus patiently went through the four provinces, one by one, displaying a degree of knowledge of the local players, terrain and balance of power that no one in Washington -- and few in Iraq -- could match.

When Biden thought he had a gotcha -- contradictions between Petraeus's report on Iraqi violence and the less favorable one by the Government Accountability Office -- Petraeus calmly pointed out that the GAO had to cut its data-gathering five weeks short to meet reporting requirements to Congress. And since those most recent five weeks had been particularly productive for the coalition, the GAO numbers were not only outdated but misleading.

For all the attempts by Democrats and the antiwar movement to discredit Petraeus, he won the congressional confrontation hands down. He demonstrated enough military progress from his new counterinsurgency strategy to conclude: "I believe we have a realistic chance of achieving our objectives in Iraq."

The American people are not antiwar. They are anti-losing. Which means they are also anti-drift. Adrift is where we were during most of 2006 -- the annus horribilis initiated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's bringing down the Golden Mosque in Samarra -- until the new counterinsurgency strategy of 2007 (the "surge") reversed the trajectory of the war.

It was being lost both in Iraq and at home. On the home front, Petraeus deftly deflated the rush to withdrawal that appeared poised to acquire irresistible momentum this summer. First, by demonstrating real and irrefutable territorial gains on the ground. Second, by proposing minor immediate withdrawals to be followed by fully liquidating the "surge" by next summer. Those withdrawals should be enough to hold the wobbly Republican senators. And perhaps even more important, the Pentagon brass.

The service chiefs no longer fight wars. That's now left to theater commanders such as Petraeus. The chiefs' job is to raise armies -- to recruit, train, equip and manage. Petraeus's job is to use their armies to win wars. The chiefs are quite reasonably concerned about the enormous strain put on their worldwide forces by the tempo of operations in Iraq. Petraeus's withdrawal recommendations have prevented a revolt of the generals.

Petraeus's achievement is no sleight of hand. If he had not produced real, demonstrable progress -- reported by many independent observers, including liberal Democrats, even before he came back home (i.e., the United States) -- his appearance before Congress would have swayed no one.

His testimony, steady and forthright, bought him the time to achieve his "realistic chance" of success. Not the unified, democratic Iraq we had hoped for the day Saddam Hussein's statue came down, but a radically decentralized Iraq with enough regional autonomy and self-sufficiency to produce a tolerable stalemated coexistence between contending forces.

That's for the longer term and still quite problematic. In the shorter term, however, there is a realistic chance of achieving a separate success that, within the context of Iraq, is of a second order but in the global context is of the highest order -- the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Having poisoned one country and been expelled from it (Afghanistan), al-Qaeda seized upon post-Hussein instability to establish itself in the very heart of the Arab Middle East -- Sunni Iraq. Yet now, in front of all the world, Iraq's Sunnis are, to use the biblical phrase, vomiting out al-Qaeda. This is a defeat and humiliation in the extreme -- an Arab Muslim population rejecting al-Qaeda so violently that it allies itself in battle with the infidel, the foreigner, the occupier.

Just carrying this battle to its successful conclusion -- independent of its larger effect of helping stabilize Iraq -- is justification enough for the surge. The turning of Sunni Iraq against al-Qaeda is a signal event in the war on terrorism. Petraeus's plan is to be allowed to see it through.
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