News and Notes From the "War on Terror"
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Are even Republicans finally beginning to have second thoughts about the war? John Warner, the former Mr. Taylor, GOP "statesman," and pooh-bah-in-chief of the Senate Armed Services Committee says that Iraq is "going sideways." Warner says nothing should be off the table and it might be time to change course. Gee, you think?
Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground. The number of car bombs in Baghdad, both detonated and defused, hit their highest level of the year last week. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Interior Ministry suspended an entire police brigade, citing suspicions that some members permitted or participated in death squad killings.
It looks like American casualties are on the rise as well. "The number of U.S troops wounded in Iraq has surged to its highest monthly level in nearly two years as American GIs fight block-by-block in Baghdad to try to check a spiral of sectarian violence that U.S. commanders warn could lead to civil war."
According to this LA Times story, Iraq has devolved into multiple conflicts with American troops caught in the middle. "American troops find themselves in the crossfire, caught among foreign militants, Sunni Muslim nationalist rebels, Shiite Muslim militiamen and other armed groups — all fighting each other." Really, did the Bushies and the arrogant Neocons who agitated for blood not see this coming?
A fine article in the American Conservative by Paul Schroeder on the "Bright Promise of Failure" in Iraq. Schroeder says that Americans need to be shorn of utopian expectations regarding foreign policy:
One requirement for reaping any profit from accepting failure in Iraq, then, is a clear anti-utopian sense of history, a willingness to recognize and respect limits and reject self-delusion—something any reasonably educated, sensible person can develop. It also helps if we avoid some natural but erroneous assumptions about what accepting failure in foreign policy involves. It is not simply a first preliminary step, a matter of seeing that you are in a hole and should stop digging. It involves a rigorous, active search for the deeper causes of failure and thus becomes a strategic maneuver, a way of seeking and creating conditions needed for climbing out of the hole
In the misnamed "war on terror," the object has to be keeping the enemy off-balance, not swatting at gnats with heavy armaments:
Americans, led by their government, seem incapable of understanding that this worldwide contest is not a shootout at the OK Corral but judo. The object is not to eliminate the opponent but to unbalance and overthrow him, using his own offensive lunges to do so. Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, the Iraqi insurgents, even Saddam himself understood that, with the result that America, though incomparably stronger, has been thrown off balance far more than they.
This understanding of the contest as a long-term political, legal struggle to uphold the rule of law rather than a war, and judo rather than a gunfight, must also change the American definition of success. The administration, with most of the media and many voters in tow, has consistently defined victory in terms of missions supposedly accomplished, positive gains allegedly achieved.
In short, we need a redefinition of victory, which Schroeder supplies:
In this contest, as in the 19th-century contest of legitimate regimes against revolution, victory cannot mean crushing the evil and establishing the reign of Freedom and Democracy throughout the world by glorious victories on the battlefield or elsewhere, but (in the words of Austria’s Prince Metternich) outliving the evil. That is not compromise or surrender. It means ensuring that one’s own values, institutions, and way of life survive and ultimately thrive while those who would overthrow them are gradually marginalized and ultimately die out. That is the only kind of victory in this contest America can achieve or should aspire to.
Schroeder's assessment is generally upbeat, until his conclusion, where he says that any rational policy in the Middle East will likely be stifled by our undue yoking to the Israeli state:
The insuperable, structural obstacle to a serious pursuit of success in the Middle East through accepting failure in Iraq, the elephant in the room that I have carefully avoided mentioning hitherto, is Israel. More precisely, it is not Israel itself or its actions, but the fact that the United States has deliberately forfeited control over its policy toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts that form one critical aspect of the Middle East imbroglio. While the U.S. could conceivably change its policy and aims in regard to all its other vital aspects—Iraq, Iran, oil, regional security, even terrorism—I see no possibility that any party, administration, or American public will take the steps needed to regain that essential control.
Rice and Rummy ignored warnings about a possible al-Qaida attack. Condi says she just doesn't have any recollection of such a meeting.
Senator Frist says we need a political solution in Afghanistan and that any settlement would have to incorporate the Taliban. He's right, but don't look for any rational discussion of this issue because it is a political no-go.