December 21, 2004

And Now...Some Good News...Kinda

David Brooks is finding his voice (didn't Safire tell him it would take a year or so?). An excellent op-ed well worth your time. All is not doom and gloom in the Middle East. The President's critics would have more credibility if they occasionally noted this, er, reality (to use a word in moronic vogue). They won't, of course, as mono-narratives are much easier to tiresomely chime on about. Anyway, you can fairly disagree with some of Brooks' points. And much of the new dynamics on the peace processing front were borne, not by some ingenious White House initiative, but by the simple fact of Arafat's death. But we appear to be coaxing the process along not unadeptly.

Meanwhile, Steve Menashi (writing over at Sully's space) is further explaining (for those who still don't get it) why some conservatives have had it with Rumsfeld. And, via Steve, it's worth pointing out Matt Yglesias is spot on re: why the Democrats should be loudly entering the fray. Except they won't, of course. The Kos-school will rule the day, likely. Rather than trying to come up with better ideas re: Iraq--there will be the predictable schandenfreude in various precincts that the effort is proving so difficult.

You know, rarely have we faced such mediocre political leadership around the globe, alas. Both sides of the aisle are consumed by so much group-think. Pelosi, Dean, Moore and Co. go on about how awful it all is and how the Chimp-in-Chief is taking us towards some quasi-fascist state and, basically, running around killing people for oil. And there is too rarely the appetite to confront square-on the full gamut of challenges Iraq presents in the amen corners of the self-congratulatory American right (though Bush did admit, more forcefully than before, some of the challenges in his press conclave of yesterday). Mavericks (how dare they disagree with the infallible and saintly Rumsfeld!) like Hagel and McCain are roundly derided as showboaters and worse. But perhaps arguably the best leader on the world stage today, Tony Blair, fits this more maverick mold. Who can imagine another Labour PM, faced with such a groundswell of public opposition, standing shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. through 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq?

I repeat: a morally defunct exit strategy, where we declare victory and leave a too hastily trained, under-qualified Iraqi "army" to be slaughtered like lemmings, will be the final straw for war supporters like me. I still believe Bush will see this through. But his Ljubljana-like 'sense of his soul' defense of Rummy yesterday doesn't give me comfort that the President fully gets it. Am I too pessimisic about the strength of the post-elections insurgency? Perhaps. I hope so. But we're probably lying to ourselves if we are making policy assumptions (again!) that are so overly rosy. I'm hearing that some in the Pentagon are, quite amazingly, contemplating troop draw-downs in '05. That is too premature and would likely prove a disaster.

Back Tuesday evening.

Posted by Gregory at December 21, 2004 12:37 PM

I think the Bush administration is in a Catch-22 situation
where they can't sanction the allocation of more troops because it would fuel their critics who say that things aren't going to plan - and yet it is exactly more troops on the ground *now* that would lead to a quicker exit in the long run.

Posted by: Paul Owens at December 21, 2004 05:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


"Mavericks (how dare they disagree with the infallible and saintly Rumsfeld!) like Hagel and McCain are roundly derided as showboaters and worse"

BD seems to lurch to one extreme or the other. You single out Rumsfeld for most of Iraqs' problems. You praise and defend McCain and Hagel, whose voting records in the 1990's demobilization of the US military bears examination. Regardless of their politics, McCain is no angle and Rumsfeld no devil. To place your faith or scorn in an individual, any individual on the world stage is to set your self up for disappointment. Rumsfeld's hubris is his stubborness, McCain's is his desire, perhaps need, for press affirmation. Both men are smart, experienced and sincere, yet disagree. While we get to armchair, history will judge who is right.

BTW excellent and needed post yesterday about Gitmo. Are you going to pursue change?

Posted by: DaveK at December 21, 2004 05:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you miss the point when you discount Bush's contribution and instead say it's mostly due to Arafat going to his great reward of 72 goats. If Arafat had been allowed to strut the world stage for the last 3 years he might still be alive, I think the house arrest and squalor at Ramalla helped drive home to him what a failure he really was. Even if that is only wishful thinking, I still think Bush deserves a lot more credit than the MSM and pundits are willing to give: probably the hardest thing for a politician to do is demonstrate patience in the face of everyone's carping and fingerpointing. The task Bush was given was "don't just do something, stand there" -- how many of us could have done it?

Posted by: wayne at December 21, 2004 06:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well I know that I was waiting out the time until Arafat's death for something on the diplomatic front to happen again. I think Bush simply realized that as long as Arafat had power, that was the only course available. He tried to push Arafat to give power away, and Arafat would not. There was nothing at all possible while he lived.

It's not brain science as a position. Still, it's remarkable the number of leftists who knee jerkingly interpreted this as a failure to engage, prefering the emptiness and hypocrisy of the Clinton years to the honest truth stated baldly.

Arafat was not a partner for peace. That was the story.

Posted by: alcibiades at December 21, 2004 09:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg --

You discount the real reason the knives are out for Rummy. He cancelled a lot of big ticket, Cold War derived weapons systems designed to fight the non-existent Soviet Union. The Crusader, the Osprey, a few more I think, have all fallen to his axe.

This means real money out of the pockets of defense contractors (billions and billions) and less pork barrel gravy for McCain, Hagel, Lott, etc.

The debate is not about Rummy signing letters with an auto signer, or troop levels, or armored humvees. It's about the pork. And, on the side of the military, changing from a Cold War "heavy" army ala Gulf War I to an army that can fight in Korea, or Iran, or Africa, or Taiwan, at a moments notice.

The pork guys don't want their programs cut, and the generals prefer the Army the way it is. I think some of Rumsfeld's cuts are dumb (we likely need more not less armored vehicles in urban combat operations and the humvee ain't it ... let's get more APCs that are tracked not the damn Stryker) but that's just me. Ultimately this debate is not about the GIs and Marines, but the money boys in DC.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at December 21, 2004 11:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does anybody think there's a possibility for peace while Sharon is in power?

Maybe if Netyanhu replaced him?

Posted by: J Thomas at December 21, 2004 11:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why do you think that Bush will "see it through"? What do you mean by see it through? What metrics do you use to measure whether it has been "seen through"? Are they the same, or similar to those you think the Bush administration uses?

I frankly think that the election, assuming that it is fair, will present a large opportunity to Iran to increase its influence in Iraq. And that this influence, whether real or perceived, will be used to justify further insurrection in the Sunni regions. Which in its turn will be used as justification for the Kurdish regions to secede. Which will lead to one of three outcomes:
1) [least likely] Civil War to reunite the country. Not likely since the Shi'a will have the oil-right South, the Kurds will have the oil-rich north, and the Sunni will be left with the bupkis-rich center.
2) The Turks invade to prevent an independent Kurdistan [more likely, but not by much as they want EU membership].
3) The Persian Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia fund a warm insurgency that makes Iraq the Somalia of the gulf.

This administration conducts policy with a gravity and intelligence unequaled since the Hardings toasted each other in San Francisco, and the Mrs poured hers into a potted plant.

Posted by: Jon Gallagher at December 22, 2004 04:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think I am equally skeptical as J Thomas about the prospects for peace with Sharon in power. My hope is that it is some form of the Nixon to China dynamic, but my fear is that Sharon has never wanted peace and will continue to provoke, stall, and antagonize while playing the part of peace maker in all its glorious vestments.

In either case, I think David Brooks is way ahead of himself at this time. Premature triumphalism has been an oft repeated mistake in that part of the world, so I would hesitate to declare mission accomplished.

Posted by: Eric Martin at December 22, 2004 04:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pali peace can come as soon as the Palis want it -- including the FACT that they lost, and the Jews are gonna stay in Israel. It's not Israel that stops the Palis from having a free press, it's their own thuggery.

And Bush should got LOADS of credit for not dealing with Arafat, nor make him a martyr -- allowing a successor to start thinking that maybe terrorism is a mistake.

Look at Frum's notes on Loyalty with Rumsfeld. You're casual armchair coach "send in a sub" approach doesn't seem at all likely to help, right now. It's silly to try much new stuff in Iraq until after the elections there, and then see what the newly elected Iraqi leaders want.

Bush could, and should, improve his Publicity. And there should prolly be an attempt to create metrics (10 or 100 bodies per month?) on how to measure "success". Right now, at some 1200 losses, I rate Bush at about 95% (where 2500 would be the lowest "A" - 90% rating).

If you don't like body bag ratings, what DO you like?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 23, 2004 05:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"You are casually acting as an archair coach"
Your casual approach...
(sigh, typos)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 23, 2004 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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