January 27, 2007
"Hanoi Jane" Fonda and the usual crowd of America-hating defeatists gathered in an anti-war rally on the Mall in Washington today. According to the Washington Post, "The crowd, while exuberant, seemed significantly smaller than the half-million people organizers said were present and may not have matched similar protests in September 2005 and January 2003." Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Murtha, and other anti-war members of Congress toured Iraq and Pakistan. What kind of message is that sending to the world? The U.S. Senate [Foreign Relations Committee approved] a resolution harshly critical of Bush's decision to increase in troop levels in Iraq, and Sen. John Hagel was the only Republican to vote "yes." The alternative resolution offered by Sen. John Warner introduced an alternative resolution expressing opposition to the "surge," but in milder terms. I tend to agree with Warner that the surge is a mistake, but there is no point in passing a resolution against it unless there is some concrete action behind it, such as a funding cut. Otherwise, it's an empty gesture. In wartime, deference is granted to the commander in chief in all but the most extreme circumstances.
So how should otherwise hawkish skeptics of the surge (like me) react? In Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer -- a hawk's hawk -- suggests "A Plausible Plan B." It is designed to put pressure on the Iraqi government by making a credible threat of a fall-back option in case they don't cooperate. We wouldn't be pulling out entirely, but we would reduce our commitment to maintain security in the streets of Baghdad if the political factions in Iraq don't begin to accommodate each other. Since the ball is largely in the court of Prime Minister Maliki's government now, that is about the best we can hope for.
After recent pessimistic comments, Donald Sensing has a more upbeat take now that Gen. David Petraeus is about to take over command in Iraq, revamping the previous hesitant strategy. Sensing writes, "In counterinsurgency, as with any other kind of fight, the main thing is killing the insurgents, for which civil assistance to Iraqis must play the supporting, not primary role."
In response to a chiding complaint from Andrew Sullivan that he was not stating his opinions on the Surge and Iraq war strategy more generally, Glenn Reynolds said he is less concerned about troop numbers than what actions they will undertake. That's a pretty reasonable statement, but not particularly bold.
Speaking of the new actions to be taken by our forces in Iraq, some people were cheered by the announcement that they will begin to aggressively pursue Iranian agents suspected of aiding insurgents in Iraq. At Belmont Club, however, the previous policy was derided as a "catch and release" program that was based on the futile desire "to send a conciliatory signal to Iran." Why does that approach sound so familiar? Oh yeah, because that has been the Bush administration policy regarding illegal crossings of the Mexican border.
Daniel Drezner issues a stern mea culpa about his early support for the war, almost reminding me of the Shiites who flagellate themselves in religious processions. Well, I too feel bad that my trust in the Bush administration turned out to be misplaced, but I am certainly not ready to concede that all is lost. In checking my own archives, I was surprised not to find any clear explanation of my reasons for supporting the war. Partly that is because I did not really begin blogging on a consistent basis until the latter months of 2004. The first time I expressed concern that things might be heading in the wrong direction was in April 2004.
It would be a good idea to view the difficult strategic choices in Iraq in the context of the global situation, especially now that China has tested an anti-satellite missile. This marks a major escalation of the military space technology race, and puts the global U.S. strategic posture at serious risk. Our forces are so dependent on instantaneous communications and real-time intelligence that the mere threat of a disruption in our spy satellite network would force a complete revision of contingency war planning. See Washington Post.
While browsing through my brother Dan's superb vermilliontanagers.com Web site, I came across the myspace blog of a U.S. Army medic serving in Iraq: Sgt. Kirstin "BT" Hugo. Her kind of fighting spirit should remind us that our brave, highly-trained troops in Iraq will keep up the pressure on the bad guys through thick and thin. In a long war like this one, that's what counts the most.