18 January, 2007

Winning The Unwinnable

John Cole, the Republican blogger who has disassociated himself from today's GOP, points towards this post (Specifically, the comment thread attached to the post.) by the (in)famous Jeff Goldstein. While John takes apart the commenters with amazing speed and clarity (Except for one, but I'll get to it later.), I find myself more puzzled by the root post. Now, I haven't done a lot of posts on Operation Iraqi Debacle just yet, so it's well past time for a traditional long-winded diatribe on the subject.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I have, in recent memory, bought Jeff Goldstein exactly two beers. The first was a thank-you message for giving me my first trackback from a major-tier blogger. The second was in commiseration for, and my support for, his difficulties with a certain Oregonian blogger who now has a warrant [EDIT 02.12.07 0410 MST: Link changed to a non-dead page.] for her arrest, not to mention all those names Duncan Black had been calling him. The third, coming up on February 16, will be to toast "Justice." Or maybe simply Sláinte, 'cause Jeff does like the Guinness. I've just learned that Jeff Goldstein is not going to be there. And people call ME a cut-and-run surrender monkey.)

That being said, he does bring up a single set of good points, with his own distinguishing simile tacked on to the end.
To wit: that it was “unclear” that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction is moot: the fact is, he wouldn’t let us know either way. And what we did know for sure was this: the weapons he had at one point have never been accounted for, his regime was involved in talks with al Qaeda, he was backing terrorist bombings in the middle east, he had tried before to assassinate a US President, and, if given the chance, he would have aided international terrorists against the West in any way he could find, even as he took Oil for food money to build his palaces and re-constitute his weapons programs in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. So being right about weapons of mass destruction is like being right, in hindsight, about not having paused to slide on a jimmy: it’s only a good move if nobody gets pregnant, or picks up some nasty infection.
True. true. Maybe true. True. True. And, yet again, true. (The part about the jimmy is always true.)

Yet this part of the next graf down reads exactly like you can mentally exchange the name Campos with any given detractor of the Iraq debacle.
I will happily point out that his last point—“that the whole project was likely to end in disaster”—uses the past tense, suggesting that [Paul] Campos has already declared defeat, and, even more maddeningly, seems to be reveling in it. Or, to be more kind to professor Campos, is smugly satisfied that he “predicted” that defeat, though he is not too keen on waiting for the fat lady to sing, it appears.
To be blunt, most of us that are/were against this Iraqi adventure felt that it would not end well. While it is true that some few are using that prescient standpoint to advance their own media spotlight, such as Campos and Cindy Sheehan and every single one of the early Democratic contenders for 2008 as examples, the rest of us on the left side of Blogville Elementary Playground are simply pointing and saying "See? Told you so." While that may not be the best way of getting a point across, the resulting roar of indignation from the other side drowns out the one major point that we detractors have, which falls on the heels of those words: What could you do better? What can be fixed? What can be changed?

From the outset, as I noted over a year ago, the alleged "Iraq War" was like a Washingtonian three-card Monte game; we'll act like it's a war, even though we won't specifically declare war.

Then the media stories roll in about insufficient equipment, malfunctioning equipment, FUBAR'd rules of engagement, corporate kickbacks, corporations not fulfilling their commitments as listed in their kickback contracts, the hiring of the equivalent of mercenary groups where every man jack makes more than a Marine colonel, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the stop-loss exercises. There are a veritable Who's-Who of Charlie-Foxtrots out there to select from. (Look it up if you don't know it.) Whenever something bad, and worse than bad, came out about the execution of the Iraq invasion, those who called it a war were quickest to blame... the media outlets that reported the information.

So tell me honestly. With all these developments coming down the pike at a rapid clip, how else are we supposed to look at it? It's not the media's fault that they report the stories. It's not the soldiers' fault that they have a cruddy job, not to mention insufficient equipment and boots on the ground to do the job they have. And yet who gets the blame? From the supporters, it's the fault of the media for only reporting what has gone wrong instead of what has gone right, such as the toppling of the Ba'athist regime, building schools, secure Kurdistan, et cetera. (John Cole also links to this post by Hot Air's Bryan, who lists a bunch of positive things that the media has, whether due to it being against the "Bleeds = Leads" mantra or some other reason, not reported widely.) From the more violent detractors, it's the soldier's fault, for (a paraphrase) they signed on to be Myrmidons, ruthless crushers of humanity, et cetera.

The military has a slang term already available for both of these outlooks: experiencing a Rectal Cranial Inversion.

The full truth is that we sent our boys and girls off to do battle, and our leadership stayed home and had business as usual. And that, as notes the Flannel Avenger, was the Achilles' heel of the Republican Congress. The congresscritters went on securing their own power structures, being more concerned with political gains than doing their jobs. (Minor apology to Mr. Ray, however. Iraq was a part of the GOP losses in November, but it was a regrettable symptom rather than the cause.) Hearings that lasted 2 hours and performed to an empty room. Earmarks that spiraled out of control. Amendments that defeat the purpose of a bill rather than support it. Amendments that cause a perfectly good and necessary bill to die off because the authors couldn't even vote for their own bill anymore. The Republican Congress showed us, by their actions rather than their words, that they didn't take the invasion seriously, that it was just another political tool to bend into a shape of their choosing rather than a real-world disaster in the making.

But that was then. This is now. A new Congress is in, led by Democrats. And what is the magic bullet?

To withdraw funding and force the Pentagon to pull everyone home. If Pelosi & Co. could come up with a scenario more likely to spawn the "cut-and-run" accusation favored by the right, it would have to be a true thing of beauty. Not only does this kill off any chance that the still-unstable Iraqi government could stay on its feet, it sends a dour message to the boys and girls in uniform who would have to feel like kids who come home from summer camp to find that their parents had gotten divorced. "Hi kids. Guess what? You live with someone else now. Oh, and you don't get your allowance anymore, either." For can you guess what would be the first casualty of reduced funding? Late or non-existent payroll. It wouldn't be ammunition that suffers, as that's mostly in theater already and you can fire on full-auto less often. It wouldn't be fuel, as that's mostly in theater already, whether what we brought or what's being distilled on site. It wouldn't be Kellogg Brown Root, as they have binding contracts for certain services. Instead, it'd be the same kids that went where they were ordered to go by Congress and the President. Simply slashing the funding to zero wouldn't do a single bit of good for those who wear the boots. Indeed, how are those kids supposed to get home without even enough money for transportation?

Talk about a morale killer.

And then there's this gem by Nawoods:
The enemy’s tactic for achieving stratigic victory is to not fight in the traditional sense. Rather they plan operations designed to grab headlines in the western media in the hopes we become demoralized, convince oursleves all is lost, and head for home.
Essentially, what we have here is a complaint that the insurgents aren't fighting like real men. They aren't battling for strategic ground. They don't have a hill to take. They don't have a river to cross. That's because that we're fighting in what the normal folks in the military call FISH: Fighting In Someone's House. The insurgents don't have to take and hold land. They just have to deny someone else that ability temporarily. Or back off for a little bit, wait for the US forces to move on, and then return to their former attack runs. Or, just as likely, throw a rock at someone, walk around the corner, and be a suddenly upstanding citizen again. This isn't a traditional war, and our military leadership and supporters continue to make the mistake of expecting one. (See: Battle of Fallujah) So to Nawoods: You are experiencing a Rectal Cranial Inversion. Please remove head from bottom immediately. Thank you.

So what do we do to win the unwinnable?

For one thing, the "surge" plan is doomed to fail unless and until they scrape up every single bit of necessary and required materiel from stateside and ship it over to the sandbox with all overdue haste. It won't make a bit of difference to send in another fifty thousand, hundred thousand, two hundred thousand pairs of boots, plus the people to stand in them, if they don't have the gear they need. This is a must, period, ad infinitum, ad astra, ad nauseum.

Second, all talk of preemptively cutting funding must cease. Instead, we should actually stop diverting funds from the troops stationed in Iraq in the first place. We're putting more and more money into the Iraqi infrastructure than we are into the actual needs of the people fighting. This, as they say, is a Bad Idea. Fund them right, feed them right, equip them right. You want to show your support of the troops? Then do it where it counts. No more "I support my troops so I'm pulling them back home" garbage.

Third, one hard and vicious timetable. From all available reports, the Iraqi government doesn't seem to be able to step up and take the ball. If this is a question of them being incompetent and unable to lead, then the incompetent must be replaced. (Preferably by someone who is not chosen for their political friends, but by displayed competence levels.) If this is a question of them dragging their feet and hoping that the Americans won't leave, acting like a kid going to the dentist for fear of that great big needle... The shot will hurt a lot less than the drill. And they will get drilled if they aren't as ready as they think they are.

Fourth, an engaged Congress. This very moment, the idiots I helped elect into leadership positions are becoming more and more concentrated on gaining political leverage, scoring points against the loyal opposition, and leveling a few legislative booms on their enemies. Sound familiar? Exactly. It's what I just got done saying was one of the causes of the Republican downfall. No more business as usual under the Dome. Do your bloody jobs right by the kids who swore an oath to serve, protect, and defend the Constitution of these United States, just the same as you did.

Like it or not, this is our ball to run now. Don't like it? Tough. We wanted it.

Don't you dare drop it.

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