I almost completely agree with Glenn Reynolds today, which doesn't happen often.
Bush obviously thinks that by the 2006 Congressional elections, and especially the 2008 Presidential election, it will be obvious that we've won in Iraq, and he wants to make sure that the Democrats can be portrayed as defeatists and losers
But to me, the Democrats' seemingly schizophrenic attitudes towards the war in Iraq and the broader war on terror, reflect the true and deep divisions we have about it as a nation. This was a gamble, plain and simple, and the President and the right will take credit for a win that they don't really deserve. I'll get back to that in a minute. Required reading comes first.
Now, SAWB, Sprout and I can get into it with inane comments all day long, but I think this is best explained by two very smart bloggers I read almost every day. The first selection is from Tucker (scroll down for the specific post, it looks like MSNBC ain't helpin' again) when he says:
There's a consensus among the media that the war was a mistake from the beginning and that Bush's handling of it has been inept. I share that view.
I had a long e-mail exchange about it today with a reporter friend of mine. He's a conservative who, partly based on what he saw first-hand in Iraq, has become violently disenchanted with the Bush administration's handling of the war. Here's how he concluded his last e-mail: "If Bush ends up being right about Iraq, it will be through luck and accident and God's grace, not through any skillful calculation of his own. Success there will make him a great president the way Powerball makes crackheads rich: they have the money to show for it, but they're not fooling anyone."
But it almost doesn't matter. A disaster in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States. Pray for success, no matter who's responsible for it.
(I put the bold on Tucker's most important words there, 'cause those are the ones I want you to keep in mind.)
The second selection comes from Matt Ortega over at Second Civil War. I don't know why this cat isn't more popular. He discusses the election in Iraq as well as his overall feelings on the whole of the situation:
Let's go back in time to October 2002...I was following the news - Congressional authorization for force, United Nations resolution (and subsequent non-support by the U.N.). I knew about the blood on Saddam Hussein's hands. I bought into the weapons of mass destruction claims. I wanted to free a nation of people whom I believed that lived in fear under his rule....I never really believed [the Iraq - al Quaeda] connection but I thought, "Hey what do I know? They have all the intel experts." Still, I thought the war was worth fighting. I still remember how happy I felt for the Iraqis on April 1, 2003 when they were rejoicing in the toppling of Saddam's rule by tearing down his statue. I genuinely felt very happy for them that I could not hold back a big smile. I was proud to be supporting a cause I felt was worth fighting for...
Fast-forward to the next summer as it was discovered Saddam did not have ties to al-Qaeda nor 9/11. Ever since then, my support has waned.
Do I want to see a successful democracy in Iraq? Yes, of course I do. When the U.S. finally pulls out of Iraq, I want to know that we did something. I want to know for myself that my support for the war in the beginning was not a total loss. I want to be assured that the lives of several thousand Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis did not perish in vain.
However, I still have questions about the war that must be answered...
(Again, I emboldened what I thought were the most important words.)
That's something I don't think a lot of the activist left really gets (but they don't really get anything, they're just loud and obnoxious). And Lord knows the Democrats are just as split as the rest of the country on what in the world to do now. Dems are making a mistake by saying 'we can't win,' because we have to. Almost everyone I talk to agrees with that. Though, I think Mr. Murtha's contention that it is our own troops on the ground that is causing the insurgency is worth examining, many of us know that we can't just leave. That line of debate is suicide for Democrats, plain and simple, and here's why:
I think a lot of Americans feel lied to and decieved, and we've had second thoughts about going to Iraq. I know that I thought the war was a bad idea before it started, I think it has been run terribly by this administration both at home and abroad, and I think that the only reason we have a chance at winning is because the folks wearing the boots and guns are holding together an entire country with bailing wire, duct tape, blood, sweat and sheer willpower. I know plenty of conservatives who now wish we hadn't gone (who have asked to specifically remain nameless). But one thing we all understand, and have reached a broad American Consensus on, is that we've got to win this one.
The question is: how? That's where we start arguing.
Dems have got to lock themselves into a room and not come out until they decide that, no matter what it takes, no matter how long, we win Iraq. Then we let the Administration do their victory laps and hang themselves with the American people, cause this war has become a chore that Bush got us into.
Ol' Dubya's still Commander in Chief, so he's still in charge. But he's gotten us in an unholy mess, and isn't really helping us out of it either. 'Stay the course' is not a plan. That tells me him and his people still haven't figured out what they got us into. He could set reasonable milestones instead of timeframes, and America would feel much more confident. Such as:
500,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police? Check.
100,000 Iraqi women soldiers and police? Check.
500,000 Iraqi soldiers or police finishing or enrolled in basic training? Check.
500,000 Iraqi soldiers with a rifle? Check.
500,000 Iraqi soldiers with a sidearm? Check.
(some of y'all may say 'he already said that.' No, I want them to only talk about reaching a milestone when it is reached, for an entire day, and dominate the news cycles with it. 'We're winning in Iraq,' is not the kind of thing I'm asking for.)
Milestones like that, though oversimplifications, would make me feel much better about this process. That would help the country get through this. The Democrats would do well to point out that we don't hear much about those milestones as we hear about 'fighting for freedom' and 'mission accomplished' and 'we're winning.' Ask for milestones not timeframes and we end up being part of the solution.
But when our people in boots and guns do win Iraq: ol' Dubya does not get the keys to the machine any more. We do not take him at his word once we are through this. We all know that 'boy that cried wolf' parable, and fool me once is shame on you.
If he wants to play war-President, he gets to ask for a straight up Declaration of War, a military draft and gasoline rations before we committ troops again. Either that, or he has to build a 150 nation, 500,000 strong coalition and apply the 'overwhleming force' of the undefeated Powell doctrine. That's what every Democrat who voted for this war has got to stand up and say. I don't care if I get drafted or if we start carpet bombing cities again a la Dresden. If we go to war after we win this one, we go in full bore.
And I'm tired of him invoking the 'War on Terror' to justify outrageous acts by the government. Libertarians should have broke with the right wing coalition this morning about 10:30 am. Yeah, I know y'all hate us hippies on the left, but incompetence is far better than malfeasance, wouldn't you agree? I guess not. (Strangely enough, my boy Glenn ends up on the wrong side of this one.
If we're going to wage a 'war on terror,' we've got to look at all aspects of terrorism, and not just the jingoistic us vs them crap. Right now, all we are doing is going after the effects of global terrorism, not the root causes. And before y'all give me any 'justification' nonsense, let me make this clear: there is no justification for terrorism, and that is exactly the reason why we must address why grown people are waking up in the morning and saying to themselves 'today would be a great day to die while attacking America.'
That's not a conclusion people come to under normal circumstances.
I, for one, really want to know how they come to think that. I can tell you it ain't cause they 'hate us for our freedoms.' The last Britney Spears album made me mad, too, but I didn't go out and act crazy. I just changed the radio staion. I want to know why they don't just change the station, I want to know why we have to deal with so much blowback.
Because if spying on ourselves is the answer, and pathetic attempts to justify it are our only answers from Washington, we simply cannot afford to continue running our foreign policy the way we have. We need to overhaul it up and down, I don't care what businesses get screwed. They ain't worth this. They just ain't worth this. We're looking at the monkey and we are not seeing the elephant.
And we get turned away by jingoism every time we ask. Well that just ended.
When our recourse is to justify illegal spying on Americans and argue that the person who told us we were being spied upon is acting ‘shameful,’ you know we've turned a big brother sized corner.
'Cause apparently, while we over at Super Secret Liberal Takeover HQ were planning our next invasion of Middle America, the folks at Rightwingers Against Really Real Reality (RARR) went ahead and did it! Not only that, but they had the audacity to tell us that we, the American people, can't actually be trusted not to be terrorists.
Are you kidding me?
And now almost yearly, we watch anti American candidates win elections (both accurate and sham) in Iran, Venezuela and now Bolivia where the Socialist Morales has promised to be Washington’s nightmare.
Washington's nightmare? We only used to hear that from blustery Eastern Bloc tin-hats who couldn't really touch us. Now its our own hemisphere? Now it is democracies voting for the anti-American candidate? Maybe we ought to stop backing bozos like the Shah, Diem, & Batista. (Musharraf, Mubarak, the Saudis come to mind).
As a matter of fact, almost yearly, we actually see underground American pop culture turn against American government for similar misguided aspects of domestic policy. Take, for instance, the stop snitchin’ T-shirts. There's a real good end to that story when it plays out, let me tell you.
What will happen when seething masses abroad don’t respect America and seething masses at home don’t respect America? Alexis De’Tocqueville said it best: “America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
America still is good. But its the people driving the boat that are taking us dangerously close to foul waters.
(Update 12/20/05 Tocqueville might not technically have said any of that stuff though, but it is still a really good quote that has been attributed to Tocqueville forever. Damn French. Serves me right for trying to quote one of them anyway!)