Topic: Selling the War
More Fallout from the Speech to Explain Everything: Failure Is an Option?
Okay, you could compare last night's presidential address on what the real situation is now in Iraq - full text of the speech here - to Nixon's "Silent Majority" speech (here) back in the days of the Vietnam War. Taking the lead from Digby at Hullabaloo we tried that here. Both were exhortations to "stay the course" no matter how we got to where we are. We cannot pull out. That's no way to end this war.
The parallels are spooky.
But are they useful? Perhaps not.
Although Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, commented -
No. We may be there again, and in the commentary all over comparisons to the Vietnam War are growing by leaps and bounds.
Be that as it may, others are just dumbfounded by now having to deal with a third rationale for why we in Iraq. Just after the speech John Kerry on CNN's "Larry King Live" said we had just been offered such a "transformation" to this third reason for the war - "The first, of course, was weapons of mass destruction. The second was democracy, and now, tonight, it's to combat the hotbed of terrorism. But most Americans are aware that the hotbed of terrorism never existed in Iraq until we got there."
True, but is that relevant? Perhaps through incredibly bad judgment, for reasons that will forever be obscure, we have created this new hotbed of terrorism, alienated almost all the nations of the world and made ourselves almost universally reviled (see this and this in the latest issue of Foreign Policy for detail and discussion), inspired the jihadists everywhere - with many pouring into Iraq now, and learning there to become far more efficient and effective, and others gleefully planning new attacks elsewhere - and have come close to stretching our military to the breaking point.
It's a bit of a mess.
As Kevin Drum puts it bluntly: "These guys still can't face the reality of what's happened to their lovely little war. They willfully ignored the advice of the uniformed military officers who had actual experience in fighting modern wars, and because of that they didn't know what they were getting into before the war, they didn't know what they were up against after the war, and they're apparently still clueless about what to expect in the future."
So what? What do we do now?
BUSH: "To complete the mission, we will prevent al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends. And the best way to complete the mission is to help Iraqis build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself."
A comment from a pro-war fellow here -
But he goes on to say that these are fights over the past, and the question is now what?
Bill Montgomery (Billmon) over at Whiskey Bar has an idea: Failure Is an Option
And why would that be?
So Bush has managed to make himself right at last? Seems so.
And there is much that follows on why more troops would not make a difference - our military has made itself enormously unpopular in Iraq: "It's hard to see how putting more jittery, haji-hating American soldiers on the streets of Iraq is going to help peel away the insurgency's 'soft support' or induce more Sunnis to cooperate with a government led by Shi'a fundamentalists."
Fine. And he sees that, with or without more troops, "it seems inevitable that Iraq will continue to descend into chaos and (ultimately) something close to Hobbes's war of the all against the all - a condition which may already be near at hand."
The situation? This staying-the-course business is likely to result in a completely failed state and the Pentagon is stuck with the worst of both worlds: "trying to fight a counterinsurgency campaign with a ground force that is far too small to pacify the country, but far too big (and visible) to avoid acting as the insurgency's recruiting officers. Meanwhile, a hefty cut of whatever supplies or weapons are given to the Iraqi security forces are likely to end up in hostile hands - meaning the Army could wind up being the insurgency's quartermaster corps as well."
Can it be this bad? Can't we just soldier on?
And he provides an outline of how that would work. And that is recommended reading, a detailed discussion of phased withdrawal options and realignments of alliances and priorities.
And there is good reason -
So we muddle on. And failure is an option.
The best summary of "The Speech to Explain Everything" is from Tom Tomorrow over at This Modern World. That would be his Shorter George Bush: "We really screwed the pooch, and now you have no choice but to let us try to clean up the mess."
A note on whether we can change the "traditional thrust" of how we approach the world -
A reader's letter on the Andrew Sullivan site that strikes me as about right -
As was said in these pages on June 22, 2003 -
Foolishness or not, we are where we are, still doing the Manifest Destiny thing.