Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Latest Rationales For "Staying the Course"

With his approval rating hovering around 40% and support for the Iraq war imploding, the president has emerged from his Crawford exile with a new and compelling rationale for the Iraqi excursion. Speaking of those who have given lives or limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said, "We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us … fight and win the war on terror."

Methinks this is a curious argument. Since 2,000 plus Americans have died in the messianic crusades ludicrously called 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and 'Operation Enduring Freedom,' Mr. Bush says, why not send more young men into the fray? Does that make sense to anyone?

"So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror," Mr. Bush told National Guardsmen in Idaho. But what does it mean to "win the war on terror?" As Secretary Rumsfeld has said, "We lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" Iraq has turned into a strategic and moral disaster of cosmic proportions, and despite neocon protestations to the contrary, Afghanistan is an ungovernable mess.

Meanwhile, on the left side of the political spectrum, the NY Times says that "the only rational argument for continuing the American presence in Iraq" is to ensure that Title IX is exported to Basra U and guarantee that men can get their beards shaved down at the local barbershop. Always nice to see the libs throw around warm-fuzzy "human rights" arguments as a rationalization for militarism. As Raimondo says, the Dems are just as bad as the GOP.

What other compelling post hoc justifications are emanating from deep within the bowels of the administration? "The stakes in Iraq could not be higher," Bush added. "We will not allow the terrorists to establish new places of refuge in failed states from which they can recruit and train and plan new attacks on our citizens." Blah, blah, blah. If we aren't killing them in Basra, pretty soon they'll be in Boston. I'm reminded of a scene in Peter Weir's great movie 'Gallipoli' where Mark Lee explains to some codger in the Australian outback that if the Turks aren't stopped at Gallipoli pretty soon they would be swarming all over Australia. The old men, looking around at the desolation of the Aussie backcountry responds, "They can have it."

As I've written previously, this argument made by Bush and his neocon Svengali's begins with the presumption that there are a finite number of potential terrorists that can be penned up in Iraq and dealt with accordingly. In fact, the pool of anti-American fighters has likely grown as a response to the invasion of Iraq.

The CIA admitted that the war in Iraq was a major recruiting device for Bin-Laden and his minions. A report published earlier this year states that, "Iraq...could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."

In short, we have no definition of "winning," and hence no strategy to secure "victory," which has become little more than a vaporous abstraction employed by war supporters.

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