In his second column, which ran on Monday, Jan. 14th, the New Boy at the New York Times, William Kristol, provided us with an updated take on the neocon view of our war in Iraq. (I have from time to time monitored William’s evolution over at the Weekly Standard, and this one was Klassic Kristol.)
In a nutshell, the current neocon view of the Iraq War reality is that:
1. The Surge is a Success; deaths are down.
2. We Are Winning
3. Those lousy Democrats can’t admit it.
Actually, that last #3 is my own characterization. What Kristol –a bright guy trapped in an ideology– wrote was:
“Do Obama and Clinton and Reid now acknowledge that they were wrong? Are they willing to say the surge worked? No. It’s apparently impermissible for leading Democrats to acknowledge –let alone celebrate– progress in Iraq.”
Further, asserts Kristol, the Democrats are “…driven by a refusal to admit real success because that success has been achieved under the leadership of … George W. Bush. The horror!” (This last is Arch-Kristol at his archest…sticking it to the lily-livered Dems!)
When he is not involved directly in Dem-excoriation, Kristol’s syntax is awash with positivity: “The surge worked… celebrate…progress in Iraq…improvements…more effective…last year’s success…confidence…Bush won…able to turn around the situation…real success.”
In a phrase, according to Kristol, The Surge worked.
[ Here a momentary pause for a *Note* to the reader, concerning our headline “A Hawk Crows”.
Clearly, the “Hawk” in question refers (non-pejoratively, I might add) to Mr. Kristol. As is well-known, neocons as a group refer to themselves as “hawks”, and apparently quite happily accept identification with raptors, which word, incidentally, shares a root with “rapture” (–not, I hasten, that there’s anything wrong with it.)
And we all know people who “Crow”, in the sense of boasting or exulting –something that we ourselves would never do. (Would we?)]
Attentive readers of this blog will recognize immediately the fundamental flaws in Kristol’s argument –but, to be fair to the good William, all supporters of the war seem to be making the same mistake. And indeed many opposers of the war seem –by their very silence– also, somehow, to be in agreement.
The mistake is this: the military success of the surge merely points up –in even sharper relief– the political failure of the surge.
In his “surge” speech of January 10th, 2007, and in other references, Mr. Bush premised the success of the surge not on military victory, but on political action from Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi Parliament –the famous “benchmarks”. If that did not happen, he was saying, the surge would be a failure. And to underscore his point, he warned Maliki that the American people, and he himself, did not have infinite patience.
Our extra 22,000 U.S. troops were to make Baghdad and other areas safe for this political action to take place. (I expected a measure of success: after all, put 22,000 extra cops on the beat in any U.S. city, and you expect crime to drop –for as long as the cops stay there!) Initially the troops were given three months to do this –but three months (to June, 2007) became six (September, 2007), and now yet another four months have passed.
The military pacification of Baghdad has succeeded –but at huge cost in American soldiers lives; in April (104), May (126), and June (101), making a total of 331 lives, the WORST 3 MONTHS of the entire five years of this misbegotten war.
You exult that deaths are coming down lately, but let me suggest another way to look at it: sadly, Americans, though they have played their part by accomplishing their mission of pacification, still continue to lose their lives, as they wait in for the Iraqi Parliament to honor their sacrifice by acting.
All that costly achievement by our military, and still nothing or almost nothing from Maliki and his pols. It is an insult: the military has gone the extra costly mile, so to speak, and still no political action.
You call that “success”, Mr. Kristol?
By any definition, and, most pointedly, by Mr. Bush’s own definition, it all adds up to a FAILED SURGE –despite the redoubled efforts of Patraeous and the grunts.
Mr. Bush has brazenly parlayed the original allocation of three months for the surge to work, into almost a year, four times as long as the agreed period. Petraeous, for all his military leadership and the achievement of his soldiers, always knew that SUCCESS was not up to him. Both he and Secretary Gates have ongoingly expressed frustration with the unresponsive Maliki. And both of them know that we will have run out of soldiers in a few months.
Soon we will enter the sixth year of a war that Mr. Kristol and his neocon pals said variously would be over, with flowers and chocolates, in three weeks, or was it two months. In September 2002, Dick Cheney told a dubious Dick Armey “Two months”.
I have always seen the 22,000-strong surge as “the too-little-too-late mini-surge”. Over four years after the military professionals (Shinsecki and Colin Powell) had called for an Iraqi Invading force of 300,000 plus, Mr. Bush –only under the duress of losing badly in the 2006 election– came up with his…mini-surge.
The neocons –trapped in their own wishful ideology and not a military expert among them– all disagreed with the professionals. Richard Pearle, for example, is on record as saying that he calculated it would take no more than 40,000 troops. What was your figure, Mr. Kristol?
Just think: if we had listened to the professionals and gone in with the overwhelming force of 300,000 soldiers, the war quite possibly would have been over in two months.
But neocon ideology, arrogance, secrecy, deception, stupidity, and intractibility have cost our nation a bitter price –in blood, life and limb, and sorrow and bereavment and mental anguish, and treasure (and the concomitant deprivation here at home), and countless personal insults (e.g. Abu Ghraib or the Walter Reed), and honor and reputation.
And, possibly worst of all, now we have the prospect of another bitter national ghost, a skeleton of sorrow and recrimination locked up in the closet of the nation’s psyche. (File that spectre right next to Vietnam!)
So now, finally, in the eighth year of the reign of Mr. Bush, we are in the endgame. Not of the war –we hear even today that we may still be there guarding borders until 2018!– but, of running out the clock.
By election time in November, with reasonably anticipated significant Republican losses, and the considerable likelihood of a Democratic President, the way will be open –I hope and trust– for responsible resolution of the unhappiest misadventure in the entire history of our nation.
But by that time Mr. Bush will have apparently what he is now playing for –running out the clock, so he (and anyone else who has a mind to) can rerun the hardcore Republican version of The Vietnam Song:
I tried my best to win
(for freedom, democracy, etc.)
I was winning the war;
I had a plan;
I would have won;
They took it away from me.
But history will be my judge.
Why, that’s the kind of song that could win you an election –thirty years down the road.