I share the heaviness of Jim’s heart and El Presidente’s disgust at Colorado’s band of Surrendercrats. Short-sighted political pandering from both parties – but most especially the Democratic leadership in Congress – ignores the military realities of Iraq, and the promising success of Gen. Petraeus’ “surge” strategy, which has been in full effect for scarcely a month.
We need to move past our feelings about the current administration (mine aren’t too positive) and recriminations about the earlier halfhearted war policy and the mismanagement that put us at a disadvantage. Stop the blame game, and let’s get to victory first. And whatever we do as a nation, it’s infuriating to see some of our leaders try to pull out the rug just as we’re seeing real success in the counterinsurgency.
Just this week, Petraeus said that the one thing he needs more than anything else is time. To cut off Petraeus’s plan just as it is beginning — the last surge troops arrived only last month — on the assumption that we cannot succeed is to declare Petraeus either deluded or dishonorable. Deluded in that, as the best-positioned American in Baghdad, he still believes we can succeed. Or dishonorable in pretending to believe in victory and sending soldiers to die in what he really knows is an already failed strategy.
That’s the logic of the wobbly Republicans’ position. But rather than lay it on Petraeus, they prefer to lay it on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and point out his government’s inability to meet the required political “benchmarks.” As a longtime critic of the Maliki government, I agree that it has proved itself incapable of passing laws important for long-term national reconciliation.
But first comes the short term. And right now we have the chance to continue to isolate al-Qaeda and, province by province, deny it the Sunni sea in which it swims. A year ago, it appeared that the only way to win back the Sunnis and neutralize the extremists was with great national compacts about oil and power sharing. But Anbar has unexpectedly shown that even without these constitutional settlements, the insurgency can be neutralized and al-Qaeda defeated at the local and provincial levels with a new and robust counterinsurgency strategy.
The costs are heartbreakingly high — increased American casualties as the enemy is engaged and spectacular suicide bombings designed to terrify Iraqis and demoralize Americans. But the stakes are extremely high as well.
Meanwhile, Hanson takes down the New York Times white-flag editorialists point by point. The whole thing is a worthwhile read, but I’d like to focus on his conclusion here:
We promised General Petraeus a hearing in September; it would be the height of folly to preempt that agreement by giving in to our summer of panic and despair. Critics called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a change in command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops. But now that we have a new secretary, a new command in Iraq and at Centcom, new strategies, and more troops, suddenly we have a renewed demand for withdrawal before the agreed-upon September accountingâ€”suggesting that the only constant in such harping was the assumption that Iraq was either hopeless or not worth the effort.
Too many Americans are cheering (some more quietly than others) for Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy to fail. Too many others long for success, but remain highly doubtful. I struggle, too. There are many legitimate concerns and criticisms. Yet the consequences of defeat and withdrawal would be too great and devastating. We may not reach the depths of 1864’s defeatism during this conflict – too many Americans are detached from the war, and a considerable share of that burden must fall on the White House. But right now, we’re fighting (and mostly beating) Al-Qaeda in the hot Iraqi summer. That we can’t ignore.
Let’s give our military leader his promised chance and prepare to reassess the situation in September. Meanwhile, let’s continue to follow the challenges, the difficulties, and yes – even the signs of progress – from Michael Yon with our troops in the field and Iraq the Model in sweltering Baghdad. And a little historical perspective would be nice, too.