|09-11-2007, 12:06 AM||#1|
Join Date: Dec 2002
By Bush's Own Standard, Surge Has Failed
This article is by George Will, folks. A genuine honest to goodness paleo-conservative, not one of the neo-con cabal that has hijacked the GOP.
September 11, 2007
By Bush's Own Standard, Surge Has Failed
By George Will
Before Gen. David Petraeus' report, and to give it a context of optimism, the president visited Iraq's Anbar province to underscore the success of the surge in making some hitherto anarchic areas less so. More significant, however, was the fact that the president did not visit Baghdad. This underscored the fact that the surge has failed, as measured by the president's and Petraeus' standards of success.
Those who today stridently insist that the surge has succeeded also say they are especially supportive of the president, Petraeus and the military generally. But at the beginning of the surge, both Petraeus and the president defined success in a way that took the achievement of success out of America's hands.
The purpose of the surge, they said, is to buy time -- "breathing space," the president says -- for Iraqi political reconciliation. Because progress toward that has been negligible, there is no satisfactory answer to this question: What is the U.S. military mission in Iraq?
Many of those who insist that the surge is a harbinger of U.S. victory in Iraq are making the same mistake they made in 1991 when they urged an advance on Baghdad, and in 2003 when they underestimated the challenge of building democracy there. The mistake is exaggerating the relevance of U.S. military power to achieve political progress in a society riven by ethnic and sectarian hatreds. America's military leaders, who are professional realists, do not make this mistake.
The progress that Petraeus reports in improving security in portions of Iraq is real. It might, however, have two sinister aspects.
First, measuring sectarian violence is problematic: The Washington Post reports that a body with a bullet hole in the front of the skull is considered a victim of criminality; a hole in the back of the skull is evidence of sectarian violence. But even if violence is declining, that might be partly because violent sectarian cleansing has separated Sunni and Shiite communities. This homogenization of hostile factions -- trained and armed by U.S. forces -- may bear poisonous fruit in a full-blown civil war.
Second, brutalities by al-Qaeda in Iraq have indeed provoked some Sunni leaders to collaborate with U.S. forces. But these alliances of convenience might be inconvenient when Shiites again become the Sunnis' principal enemy.
Congressional Democrats should accept Petraeus' report as a reason to declare a victory, one that might make this fact somewhat palatable: Substantial numbers of U.S. forces will be in Iraq when the next president is inaugurated. The Democrats' "victory" -- a chimera but a useful one -- is that Petraeus indicates there soon can be a small reduction of U.S. forces.
To declare this a substantial victory won by them requires Democrats to do two things. They must make a mountain out of a molehill (Petraeus suggests withdrawal of only a few thousand troops). And they must spuriously claim credit for the mountain. Actually, senior military officers have been saying that a large drawdown is inevitable, given the toll taken on the forces by the tempo of operations for more than four years.
But Democrats cannot advertise a small withdrawal as a victory without further infuriating their party's base, the source of energy and money. The base is incandescent because there are more troops in Iraq today than there were on Election Day 2006, when Democratic activists and donors thought, not without reason, that congressional Democrats acquired the power to end U.S. involvement in Iraq.
A democracy, wrote the diplomat and scholar George Kennan, "fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it -- to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end." Which is why "unconditional surrender" was a natural U.S. goal in World War II, and why Americans were so uncomfortable with three "wars of choice" since then -- in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
What "forced" America to go to war in 2003 -- the "gathering danger" of weapons of mass destruction -- was fictitious. That is one reason why this war will not be fought, at least not by Americans, to the bitter end. The end of the war will, however, be bitter for Americans, partly because the president's decision to visit Iraq without visiting its capital confirmed the flimsiness of the fallback rationale for the war -- the creation of a unified, pluralist Iraq.
After more than four years of war, two questions persist: Is there an Iraq? Are there Iraqis?
|09-11-2007, 05:54 AM||#2|
Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
Not surprisingly, the American public agrees with Will...
AP Poll: Most see Iraq war as failure
By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer 15 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The public sees the Iraq war as a failure and thinks the U.S. troop buildup there has not worked, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll suggesting the tough sell President Bush faces in asking Congress and voters for more time.
The pessimism expressed by most people — including significant minorities of Republicans — contrasted with the brighter picture offered by Gen. David Petraeus. The chief U.S. commander in Iraq told Congress on Monday that the added 30,000 troops have largely achieved their military goals and could probably leave by next summer, though he conceded there has been scant political progress.
By 59 percent to 34 percent, more people said they believe history will judge the Iraq war a complete or partial failure than a success. Those calling it a failure included eight in 10 Democrats, three in 10 Republicans and about six in 10 independents, the poll showed — ominous numbers for a president who hopes to use a nationally televised address later this week to keep GOP lawmakers from joining Democratic calls for a withdrawal.
"We cannot take any of this administration's assertions on Iraq at face value anymore," said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., a war foe and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. "And no amount of charts or statistics will improve its credibility."
Underscoring the public's negativity, four times as many predicted the war in Iraq would be judged as a complete U.S. failure as the number who see a complete success, 28 percent to 7 percent.
When the Gallup Poll asked the same question in September 2006, 52 percent said the war will be judged as a partial or complete failure, seven points fewer than the AP-Ipsos survey.
"The enemy was in Afghanistan, and I believe going into Iraq we took our eye off the ball," said Ann Bock, 66, a retired teacher and Democratic-leaning voter from Edmond, Okla., who participated in the survey.
In the poll — taken in the days just before Petraeus' long-awaited appearance — more people rated the troop increase a flop than a success by 58 percent to 36 percent, with three in 10 Republicans joining majorities of Democrats and independents in foreseeing failure.
Positive reviews of the troop increase were at about the same level as they were in mid-January, just after Bush announced the buildup.
That didn't match Petraeus' appraisal.
"In the face of tough enemies in the brutal summer heat of Iraq, coalition and Iraqi security forces have achieved progress in the security arena," he told House lawmakers. He later added, "I believe Iraq's problems will require a long-term effort. There are no easy answers or quick solutions."
People calling it a mistake to go to war in March 2003 outnumbered those calling it the right decision by 57 percent to 37 percent, numbers that have stayed about level for more than a year. About a quarter of Republicans, along with most Democrats and independents, labeled the war an error.
Among those in the poll supporting the conflict is Ronald Shaul, 62, a Republican and retired military intelligence officer.
"It was a logical outgrowth of the war on terror, started long ago by Islamic extremists," said Shaul, who lives in Hopkinsville, Ky.
Overall, those viewing the war and the troop buildup most negatively tended to be groups that often lean Democratic: females, minorities, those with lower incomes and those with less education.
For example, about two-thirds of women and half of men said the troop increase had not worked, while more minorities than whites said the war had been a mistake.
But the war remains unpopular with another group crucial to both political parties: moderates. Nearly two-thirds of them said the war and troop increase were failing and that the conflict was a mistake from the start.
Two groups that normally support the Bush administration — white evangelical voters and conservatives — remained largely behind its war strategy.
Just over half of the white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly said the war was the right decision and the extra troops were helping, while about four in 10 said the war is a success — well more than Catholics and Protestants measured in the survey.
Slight majorities of conservatives saw success in Iraq, a troop increase that is working and a war that was the right choice, a third of them or more answered each question negatively.
In another indication of how uncertainty over the conflict is felt even by its supporters, of those who said going to war was the right decision, fully one-fifth said it will be viewed as a failure and about a quarter said the troop increase has not worked.
The poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 and involved telephone interviews with 1,000 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.