Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's Wrong With This Story?

USA Today ran a piece today by Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, that began:
On Thursday, the White House submitted a report to Congress assessing the progress Iraq has made so far in meeting 18 benchmarks laid out in the supplemental war spending bill.

The report showed satisfactory progress on eight benchmarks, and eight areas where progress was not satisfactory. On two, it is too early to give an assessment. This type of mixed results is not surprising at the beginning of an operation — Gen. David Petraeus' strategy has been operating with full troop strength for less than a month.

Under a strategy based on providing security first to facilitate political progress, it is not unexpected that an initial assessment would show more progress toward security than political goals. The Iraqis still have more work to do, and we must continue to hold them accountable for their commitment to achieve political progress. But America must be willing to stand with this young democracy and help provide the stability it needs to move forward to provide security for its people and be an ally against terrorists who want to threaten us here at home.

A call for patience and consideration is refreshing; it seems like many people are not simply content to fail in Iraq, they want to rush full on into failure. The piece ends as well as it begins, with an assessment of the cost of failure, and a call for sticking to it:

Abandoning this progress and embracing failure would have devastating consequences for Iraq, for the region and for the security of the United States. Al-Qaeda has clearly stated its desire to drive the United States out of Iraq so they can use it as a safe haven from which to attack again. We need to take al-Qaeda in Iraq seriously, just as we need to take al-Qaeda seriously wherever it has a presence.

Congress should give Gen. Petraeus the chance to come back in September to give his assessment of the strategy he is pursuing. At that time, we will be in a better position to judge the impact our new strategy is having in Iraq and determine what adjustments need to be made.

As the president said on Thursday, "Good men and women are now fighting the terrorists on the front lines in Iraq" with clear objectives. "As they risk their lives to achieve these objectives, they need to know they have the unwavering support from the commander in chief, and they do. And they need the enemy to know that America is not going to back down."

So what's wrong with the story? Just this: USA Today ran it under its "Opposing View" banner.

The lead editorial said you can't judge Iraq on a simple 18-point measure and attempting to do so reflects "the dangerously simplistic nature of the Washington debate about Iraq."

It appears that USAT sees the debate on the war akin to the debate on global warming, that is, it's over.

The hard truth is that the war cannot be sustained for much longer. The House voted Thursday to pull out combat troops by next April, a step favored by 70% in the latest USA TODAY poll. Republican support in the Senate for Bush's course is eroding. On a purely pragmatic level, the military is stretched to its limits and says it cannot keep up the present deployment levels beyond next spring.

Bush might not like it, but the discussion has moved from whether to get out, to how and when. While the surge plays out for at least another two months, the need is to find the smartest way to disengage, acknowledging that every choice on the menu is unappetizing.

So a House controlled by political enemies voted against him, and the polls are down, fed as they are, by a constant drumbeat of bad news from the likes of USAT -- because of this, Bush is supposed to debate no more, push no more, believe no more. Suddenly the surge is doomed to end in September, as if the results are already known and the votes are already in?

That's the mainstream view? The one without the "Opposing View" banner?

To hold such a view requires that the editorial writers be limber, because considerable stretching is required, as in this paragraph:

Bush also continues to insist that "victory" is attainable. He's nearly alone in that assessment. Iraq is so broken that all the president's men can't put it together again. Certainly not in a time frame that the war-weary public will accept or the political timetable will allow. The best hope is for a reasonably stable country that is not a haven for al-Qaeda, a threat to its neighbors or a theater of unrestrained genocide. And even that is a huge challenge.

Our "war-weary public" will not allow the time for "victory," but apparently will allow time to create a "reasonably stable country" that plays well with others -- so long as we do it by September. (By the way, I love the way the leftymedia put "victory" in quotes, but never "defeat" and "the bloodbath we will have allowed that will certainly follow.")

USAT does acknowledge the likelihood that a rapid withdrawal, as proposed by the Dems, would lead to the troika of chaos: al-Qaeda haven, regional war, genocidal rivers of blood. But it doesn't want to stay and fight to avoid that. Desperate, the editorial writers reach for the Iraq Study Group:
The group advocated a gradual drawdown of U.S. troops, leaving behind units focused on training Iraqi forces and striking at al-Qaeda. It pushed for the Iraqi government to be held to benchmarks, and for an aggressive regional diplomatic effort. Those basic ideas remain the most sensible option.
First the mantra was we didn't have enough troops, so we let al-Qaeda get a foothold. Now, we're going to be able to flush them out with fewer troops, while criticizing Bush just a few paragraphs earlier that it wasn't as easy as just al-Qaeda:
He persists in portraying the fight largely as freedom lovers on one side and al-Qaeda terrorists on the other. While that is a piece of the struggle, the U.S. troops also find themselves trying to suppress an extraordinarily violent, multi-sided sectarian conflict. There are sects within sects, gangs, militias and criminals.
How does USAT deal with that discrepancy? As always, by calling for diplomacy. We'll get the Saudis, Syrians and Iranians, who all hate each other just as much as they hate Iraq, to get together with the Europeans, who don't want to foment any ill-will in the Middle East, and the Russians and Chinese, who do, and suddenly clarity and calm will follow.

Poppycock. To reject the Opposing View, USAT has to make false assumptions, backtrack on its own criticisms, acknowledge precipitous risks, put its faith in magic and rub its rabbit's foot.

The Opposing View, on the other hand, says "fight as if our future depends on it, fight clean, build bridges (figuratively and literally) and crush the monster." I'm still on that side. Firmly on that side.

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