Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Surge and the Political Evolution of the war in Iraq

George C. Scott, playing General George S. Patton, once uttered these famous words,

"All real Americans love the sting of battle. When you were kids, you all
admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball
players, the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a
loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a
man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, and will never
lose a war... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans."

In politics there is only one thing more dangerous than being in invested in a long, difficult, and unpopular war, and that is being invested in defeat. Americans, as Patton pointed, love winners and hate losers. There, in a nutshell, is the political evolution of the war in Iraq.
When the surge started, many of us, who hoped for success, wondered aloud if the MSM media would report on the successes.
Things began with hopeful signs. This report from Iraq the Model received some media attention.

"Operation “Imposing Law” continues in Baghdad. In contrast with previous
operations to secure the city, this one is managing to not only keep the initial
momentum, but the operation’s effects seem to be growing as well.
A few days
ago the government announced a more traffic-related measures to support
“Imposing Law” in Baghdad. Under the first order, it will be forbidden to park
any private vehicles in the main streets of the city.Under the second - a
reinstating of an old order- vehicles with odd and even numbered plates would
only be allowed on the streets on alternate days. This means that only half of
the several hundred thousand of private vehicles will be on the streets on any
day. The order applies to private vehicles only, but cuts the work involved in
screening vehicles approximately in half.
Aside from security concerns, the
order also reduces the huge traffic jams caused by the numerous checkpoints. The
downside, if any, is being felt mostly by one particular class of Baghdadis:
taxi drivers. They can now work only every other day and still have to live with
sluggish traffic and expensive fuel"

This was followed by John McCain's speech at VMI

"On my trip, I traveled to Baghdad, Ramadi, and Tikrit, met with Iraqi
cabinet officers, our top military leadership, including Generals Petraeus and
Odierno, and with embassy officials, including our new ambassador, Ryan Crocker.
I also had the privilege of spending time with our soldiers, from generals to
privates. Their courage and resolve in this frustrating war is an inspiration,
and serves as a reminder of our obligations to avoid the expediency of easy, but
empty answers or the allure of political advantage to choose the path in Iraq
that best honors their sacrifices.

"We're going to need their courage more than ever. The divisions in Iraqi
society are deep, and the need for greater security critical. Innocent Iraqis
are still being murdered, and our soldiers are braving dangers no less
threatening than in the past. Every day we read about or watch on television the
latest car bombing, IED explosion or sniper attack. But something else is
happening, too. There are the first glimmers of progress under General Petraeus'
political-military strategy. While these glimmers are no guarantee of success,
and though they come early in the implementation of the new strategy, I believe
they are cause for very cautious optimism.

"For the first time in my visits to Iraq, our delegation was able to drive
- not fly by helicopter-- from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first
time we met with a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar province, who is working with
American and Iraqi forces to fight al Qaeda. Sixteen of the twenty-four Sunni
tribal leaders in Anbar are now working with us. We visited Iraqi and American
forces deployed together in Baghdad - an integral part of the new security plan
- where they maintain a presence in a neighborhood cleared of militias and
terrorists, and hold the ground they have retaken rather than return to base,
after which the enemy returns to impose its will again on a defenseless
population. The government of Prime Minister Maliki is delivering on its promise
to deploy Iraqi brigades to Baghdad. A plan to share oil revenues equitably
among all Iraqis has been approved by Iraqi ministers and is pending approval by
the parliament. After an important visit by Prime Minister Maliki to Ramadi in
Sunni dominated Anbar, he promised a new policy to allay Sunni fears that they
will be excluded from sharing in the political future of the country. An
important result of the new security plan is the cooperation we are receiving
from the Iraqi people, who are beginning to provide us with actionable
intelligence about the whereabouts and plans of the enemy. These welcome
developments have occurred even though only three of our five additional
brigades have arrived."

However as April turned to May, the enemy countered and violence started to pick up. The narrative became one of never ending and uncontrollable violence again

"For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of
defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic
of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese
communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing
hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more
destructive regional war.
These debacles are not attributable to individual
failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general
officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for
war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the
aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First,
generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct
estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and
Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in
American generalship requires the intervention of Congress"

As the summer dragged on the Democrats became more and more confident that they would win the next looming funding battle now only weeks away

"In addition, Congress considers an annual Department of Defense authorization
bill for the coming fiscal year. The legislation establishes defense policy for
the next 12 months and is usually passed at the same time as the DOD
appropriations bill
The Democratic congressional leadership has made it clear
that it expects to enact language in either the DOD appropriations bill or the
DOD authorization bill which will lead to a timetable for disengagement of U.S.
troops in Iraq. President Bush so far has successfully resisted any such
However, the closer the 2008 elections loom, the more nervous
vulnerable Republican congressmen and senators will become. Ultimately, a
significant number of Republicans will join with Democrats and vote for a
timetable for withdrawal.
U.S. military officials in Iraq will report on the
progress of the surge of additional U.S. troops some time in September. It is
certainly possible that they will not be able to give a definitive answer to
whether the surge has been successful, but critics of our continued involvement
in Iraq will seize on any doubts they express about the success of the

A funny thing happened on the Democrat's path to surrender, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack penned this piece entitled, A War We Just Might Win, in the New York Times of all places,

"Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally
getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have
harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were
surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily
“victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live
After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land
in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found
American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy,
were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an
approach that could not work."

Many people have questioned me when I have emphasized the importance of this piece. Pollack and O'Hanlon were both both initial supporters of the war, who had grown quite critical of the execution. They are both extremely intelligent, with years of experience in these matters, and most importantly they both work for a left of center think tank, the Brookings Institute. Still, they are two people and so why would one analysis carry so much weight.
The answer lies in the quote from Patton, "Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed." As much as the American people hated the war, it's mismanagement, and everyone and everything related to it, what they hated even more was losing. Pollack and O'Hanlon gave them a reason to believe that victory was possible.

Once the levee broke on good news there was no stopping it. Nearly every single politician who visited Iraq from Dick Durbin to Carl Levin admitted, begrudgingly usually, that the surge was working. The next pivotal moment came in the form obscure liberal Congressman Brian Baird,

"The invasion of Iraq may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in
the history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a
precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn
the initial errors into an even greater problem just as success looks

As a Democrat who voted against the war from the outset and who has been
frankly critical of the administration and the post-invasion strategy, I am
convinced by the evidence that the situation has at long last begun to change
substantially for the better. I believe Iraq could have a positive future. Our
diplomatic and military leaders in Iraq, their current strategy, and most
importantly, our troops and the Iraqi people themselves, deserve our continued
support and more time to succeed."

The public started to believe. The first poll of notice was conducted by left wing MSM mainstay the New York Times, the poll was so surprising in fact that they did it twice. Then, just recently Zogby came out with a poll, that said a majority of Americans believe the war can be won.

And for icing on the cake, even Katie Couric, on the ground, couldn't help but notice progress being made,

"We hear so much about things going bad, but real progress has been made there
in terms of security and stability," Couric said Tuesday. "I mean, obviously,
infrastructure problems abound, but Sunnis and U.S. forces are working together.
They banded together because they had a common enemy: al Qaeda."

The political tide has turned so much that the Democrats have been forced to admit, yet again, that they are changing political tactics

"Designed to attract support from Republican moderates who have so far continued
to back Bush’s Iraq policy, the bill sets a “goal” of having the majority of
American combat units out of Iraq by early 2008. Levin and Reed had proposed
a withdrawal date of April 30, 2008, but Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, said he and Reed are revising their bill.

“The question is what changes, if anything, in our previous approach could gain
some Republican support and whether such changes would be acceptable” to other
Democrats, Levin said. “That’s up in the air.”
“A lot is going to depend if
we pick up some Republican support, some bipartisan support,” he added.
new Levin-Reed proposal is expected to be debated in mid-September when the
Senate takes up the Defense Authorization Bill."

Back in 1864, this same Democratic Partywas also heavily invested in defeat in another very unpopular war,

"Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the
American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the
experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or
war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been
disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden
down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice,
humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made
for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the
States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable
moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the

Americans ultimately rejected their defeatism then, and so are Americans rejecting their defeatism now. Democrats are learning the hard way, again, that the only thing more dangerous than being invested in an unpopular war, is being invested in defeat.

No comments: