Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Presidential Moment, A Foreign Policy Dilemma


Democracy is a disorderly form of government, often inefficient, always frustrating. Maintaining liberty and security, governing in such a manner as to achieve desirable political outcomes and at the same time military effectiveness, is among the most difficult dilemmas of human governance. – Professor Richard H. Kohn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (An Essay on Civilian Control of the Military, 1997).

President Obama was right to dismiss General Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It is a fundamental principle of all free and democratic societies that military authority be subordinate to civilian rule and a government elected by the people. The General’s disdain for his civilian counterparts and the lack of respect on display by McChrystal’s staff in the Rolling Stone profile were alone cause for dismissal; worse was McChrystal’s poor judgment in allowing the reporter such unguarded access. It is no surprise that certain uniformed personnel – military officials, police officers, and those on the front lines of dangerous missions – out of frustration or fatigue sometimes speak contemptuously of civilian leaders. But such conversations are expected to occur in private, away from journalists and microphones.

The purpose of the military is to defend society, not to define it. Civilian control allows a nation’s popular will to define its values and to set policy, even if contrary to the desires of its military leaders, whose institutional values are, by necessity, anti-democratic. The United States Constitution makes explicit this premise. The President is the “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States” (Art. II, Sec. 2). Congress alone is granted the power to “declare War”, “[t]o raise and support Armies,” and “[t]o provide and maintain a Navy” (Art. I, Sec. 8). “The greatest danger to liberty is from large standing armies,” declared James Madison during the constitutional convention in 1787. The Founding Fathers countered the threat of an unfettered military by embedding in the Constitution the principle that military authority remains subservient to the two branches of government elected by the people.

Essential to civilian control is the military’s embrace of its Constitutional limits. We are endowed in the United States with a highly trained and professional military establishment; one committed to political neutrality, with unhesitating loyalty to the Constitution and the democratic system of government its job it is to defend. Of course, military leaders in democracies often possess great public credibility; this has been true throughout most of America’s history. And given the complexity of modern day warfare, military technology, and geo-political strategy, the military’s expertise is called upon, and often relied upon, by the president and Congress in setting strategy and deploying resources to counter threats to American security. A good president must know when to defer to military advice and when to push back. But in the final analysis, it is always the president’s call. Military leaders can and should forcefully advocate their positions and reasoning to the President and his advisers, but they must willingly accept and faithfully execute the President’s decisions. Once the line is crossed and a general’s disagreements become publicly aired, he or she risks and usually deserves reprimand or dismissal.

American history is replete with examples of presidents displaying the upper hand in public spats with their generals. During the Civil War, President Lincoln fired Union General George McClellan after McClellan repeatedly refused Lincoln’s orders to more aggressively fight Confederate forces (it did not help matters that McClellan often referred to the president in letters as an “idiot” and a “gorilla”). In 1951, President Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur after MacArthur publicly assailed Truman’s refusal to invade and attack China directly during the Korean War. Similar incidents of lesser fame include President Lyndon Johnson’s dismissal of General Curtis LeMay in 1965 after LeMay publicly criticized the White House for not carpet-bombing North Vietnamese cities. And just two years ago, President George W. Bush forced the resignation of General William J. Fallon, head of the U.S. Central Command, after Esquire magazine profiled Fallon as the Administration’s sole voice opposing an attack on Iran (a matter that, even if true, was not for public consumption and potentially undermined Bush’s strategic planning).

Although some commentators have compared Obama’s firing of McChrystal with the Truman-MacArthur feud, I do not believe this analogy apt. Truman was concerned that broadening the Korean conflict would provoke the Soviet Union and raise the specter of nuclear war, a very real concern in 1951. MacArthur wanted to take the war to China and, possessed of an inflated ego exacerbated by his popularity following World War II, believed he was essentially immune from presidential authority. After publicly criticizing the president’s conduct of the war on several occasions, MacArthur wrote a blistering attack on the president’s strategy in a letter to the House Minority Leader, declaring that Truman’s refusal to expand the war into China imposed “an enormous handicap, without precedent in military history.” When MacArthur then publicly threatened Beijing with “imminent military collapse,” Truman finally had enough and relieved the general of his military command. “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch – although he was,” Truman later explained. “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the president.”

The Obama-McChrystal incident does not rise to the level of the Truman-MacArthur feud. Indeed, the President commended General McChrystal for his past service and emphasized that theirs was not a policy disagreement. But Obama believed that McChrystal’s actions constituted a serious enough breach of respect for the Office of the President and the entire civilian leadership that it warranted his dismissal.

Overlooked in the McChrystal affair, however, is not the general’s contemptuous and public disrespect of civilian command; it is, instead, the questionable strategy being employed in Afghanistan – counterinsurgency – a policy endorsed by the President and McChrystal’s successor, General David Petraeus. Counterinsurgency calls for sending large numbers of ground troops to both sniff out and destroy the enemy, while also living among the civilian population and slowly rebuilding the nation’s government. Even its staunchest advocates admit that this is a process that will require years, if not decades, to achieve. It demands of the U.S. military not that it defend a nation, but that it build one. It requires our armed forces to handle not only the military and security side of warfare, of which they are very good, but also the diplomatic and political side of governance, of which they are neither equipped nor particularly skilled.

Vice President Biden has contended, correctly I believe, that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan will plunge the United States into a military quagmire without weakening the international terrorist network, which is presently more extensive in places like Yemen. The question becomes, therefore, not who is in charge, but what is America’s endgame in Afghanistan? And how do we measure progress?

The military conflict in Afghanistan has been officially declared the longest war in American history. While this is true only if one measures the Vietnam War from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964, our involvement in Afghanistan extends longer than World War II and the Korean War combined. Afghanistan is not the deadliest of American conflicts, but the costs have nonetheless been substantial, costing the lives of over 1,000 American servicemen and women, tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, and hundreds of billions of dollars from the public treasury. Yet we risk having in the end achieved very little from when we first invaded Afghanistan. According to recent reports in the British press, prior to his dismissal, General McChrystal acknowledged that progress over the next six months is unlikely and that serious concerns continue to exist over the levels of security, violence, and corruption of the Afghan administration.

The problem with the McChrystal incident, then, is not so much about a disrespectful general as it is a failed policy with little chance of success. The president’s critics are likely correct that setting a firm deadline for withdrawal is counter-productive to our stated mission. But I do not believe for a minute that we will be ending our occupation of Afghanistan any time soon, even if some troops start to come home in July 2011. Nine years into the conflict, it remains difficult to detect much improvement to American security. For every innocent civilian we kill through collateral damage, mistake, or an errant missile (even as precise and careful as our military professionals try to be), the seeds of further terrorism are planted.

If victory has not been achieved after nine years, I fail to see how we can ever accomplish it under current strategy. Terrorist cells continue to exist around the world; al-Qaeda leaders continue to hide in the mountainous terrains of northwestern Pakistan, a country that we do not fully trust and that is, at best, lukewarm to our efforts in the region. We have diverted badly needed funds to a failed military effort that could otherwise help educate our children, create jobs, rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, promote a green economy, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. As I have said before on these pages, we could do so much more to enhance the security of the United States if we instead focused our efforts on building schools for Afghan children. The long-term solution to terrorism and militant fundamentalism in general, and Afghanistan in particular, is education and economic opportunity. A policy that relies upon long-term military power to bolster a corrupt government is destined to fail.

18 comments:

  1. Mark,

    What a long strange trip it's been, as the song goes.

    On September 11, 2007, General Petraeus testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was questioned by 18 politicians, most with barely a sliver of the world experience possessed by the four star. Each senator had seven minutes to pose questions or to pontificate and, of interesting psychological note, only the least experienced of the 18 complained of the limitation. No one with a gun to their head would have guessed that the future president of the United States chose questioning over speech making and his comments are illuminating. Before proceeding to demean the success of the “surge,” Senator Obama assured General Patraeus that he was confident that the general was doing the best that he could and that the troops have “done everything that’s been asked of them throughout this process.” Left unanswered is how the military could have accomplished everything that was asked of them, while still leaving something for Senator Obama to complain about. But that is what happens when liberals profess love for an institution that makes them nervous.

    Senator Obama, in his lecturing of the general, made one brilliant observation when he stated that the U.S. does not “have limitless resources.” If he could have remembered only one thing on his road to the White House, why not that?

    The future president then made this comment: “. . . I think that we should not have had this discussion on 9/11 or 9/10 or 9/12. Because I think it perpetuates this notion that, somehow, the original decision to go into Iraq was directly related to the attacks on 9/11.” Now this is funny because the ones who created and perpetrated this myth were Democrats. President Bush never said it; although it is an uncomfortable fact that Saddam Hussein gave aide, comfort and resources to al Qaeda.

    The senator went on in an attempt to create more myths, such as the notion that al Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to our invasion; that fighting terrorists increases terrorist recruitment (the military’s new secret weapon: the conscientious objector!); that “bin Laden and al Qaeda are stronger than at any time since 2001” (which explains the constant terrorists attacks on our soil. . . wait those were A.B. – After Bush); and that the “process of Iraqi reconstruction and their standard of living (continues) to be lower than it was pre-invasion” (Iraqis, especially the Kurds, have always prioritized reliable electricity over freedom from wedding day rapes, forced amputations, political imprisonment, torture, and holocaust-scale murder using “mythical” weapons of mass destruction).

    But his main agenda, which he got to quickly and continues to this day, was Bush Bashing. The defeating of evil and freeing of a people was a “disastrous foreign policy mistake,” and the only options left for a country that has waged and won wars since 1776 are only “bad options and worse options.”

    This, of course, was not a criticism of the general but of a president who has “set a mission” that “is extraordinarily difficult now to achieve” (why not something easy like the reconstruction of Germany or Japan or the invasion of Normandy?).

    (Curios observation: apparently senators have to spell out naughty words as in “. . . we have the president in Australia suggesting somehow that we are, as was stated before, kicking A-S-S,” but once president they are permitted to actually say the words, as in, “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.” By the way, the different contexts in which this profanity was used would make for a fascinating post and would go a long way in explaining why the military, burdened as it was by Bush’s “massive strategic blunder,” still loved his ass.)

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  2. Senator Obama then went on to, in a respectful way, call General Petraeus’ baby ugly: “. . . I think the surge has had some impact. . . I would argue that the impact has been relatively modest given the investment. . . And I have to say that, based on my testimony, it is not clear to me that the primary success that you’ve shown in Anbar has anything to do with the surge.”

    After choosing to pontificate, the junior senator once more complained about how unfair he was being treated: “That, of course, now leaves me very little time to ask questions and that’s unfortunate.” He does manage to ask one question and damn if it doesn’t say volumes about our Commander-in-Chief: “The question, I think, that everybody is asking is, how long will this take? And at what point do we say enough?” This is the adult version of “Are we there yet?” although no less immature and is reminiscent of JFK’s stirring words, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, unless, of course, we run into a few snags along the way, or if, God forbid, a few astronauts get blown to bits, then of course we’ll stop, scrap the whole thing and in the immortal and not yet spoken words of Graham Chapman, ‘Run away! Run away!’”

    Senator Biden also blathered on, although more eloquently, about that wonderful day when it gets so bad we finally give up and leave Iraq, which in liberal-speak is known as VI Day. Then he let loose with this devastating ‘gotcha’ question: “Can a Sunni Arab travel safely to a Shia neighborhood in Baghdad today, without fear of being kidnapped or killed? . . . Let's be straight, guys. You know, the idea that I could have walked outside or we could have walked outside that city and just toured the outside of the city, you guys would have had an apoplectic fit were that to occur and no one would have stepped outside the city.”

    The general was much too polite to explain to our future vice-president that if that is “the metrics by which we’re measuring” success, as his future boss would later say, then there are huge sections of Washington D.C. that need to be fenced off and abandoned.

    So this was what our general had to endure in 2007 and then again in 2008 when the usual suspects returned. Senator Obama, hilarious in retrospect, returned to his concern for fiscal responsibility with these gems: “Our resources are finite. . . The amount of money that we are spending is hemorrhaging our budget . . . When you have finite resources, you’ve got to define your goals tightly and modestly.”

    And Senator Biden continued his search for the magical moment when military failure becomes Democratic victory: “I can’t think of any circumstance where you fellows are likely to recommend, no matter how bad things got, where you would withdraw, but I may be mistaken.”

    But in terms of current events it was the future second-in-command who had the most interesting things to say. First he questioned President Bush’s assumptions and stated that he has “heard detailed testimony in this committee from military and civilian experts that disagree with the premises and the conclusions as what would follow if, in fact, we withdrew from Iraq. . . Equally competent people as you have testified before us that the results would be the opposite that you and the president have posited.”

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  3. Next he questioned our priorities and suggested that there are two separate al Qaeda organizations: one a deadly threat to America and the other, not so much. But first let’s remember: “Vice President Biden has contended . . . that a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan will plunge the United States into a military quagmire without weakening the international terrorist network, which is presently more extensive in places like Yemen. The question becomes, therefore, not who is in charge, but what is America’s endgame in Afghanistan? And how do we measure progress?”

    Now Biden in 2008: “What about al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11? We know where they live. We know who they are.”

    And: “We should also talk about what the president refuses to acknowledge: the increasingly intolerable cost of staying in Iraq. The risks of leaving Iraq are debatable. . . The cost of staying . . . get steeper and steeper and steeper every single day. . . the inability to send soldiers to the real central front in the war on terror which lies between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where al Qaeda has regrouped and is plotting new attacks and is alive and well, and we know where they live.”

    Does anything make this man happy? Liberals have always had a problem measuring success in war, whereas the rest of us measure success in the number of terrorists who are dead and therefore unable to plan future attacks and in the actual absence of terrorist attacks.

    But Biden has always been a tad confused. In 2002, for example, he voted “yea” for the “Authorization for the use of MILITARY force against Iraq resolution” (my emphasis). Among the many justifications for MILITARY (my emphasis) action against Iraq was this one: “Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq.” Possibly this is where the myth came from that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9-11. If so, a course in reading comprehension would go a long way towards dispelling liberal myths.

    A few years later, Biden told Tim Russert (a liberal who knew how to be objective – may he rest in peace) that his vote to use MILITARY force was a mistake (my emphasis). Biden further stated that in voting yes for the use of MILITARY force (my emphasis) what he really thought he was doing was giving “the president the authority to unite the world to isolate Saddam.”

    And now he is a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    So in April 2008, Biden informed General Petraeus that General McNeill told him that 10,000 extra soldiers in Afghanistan would be swell. Biden also jotted this down on a Post-it and stuck it on Senator Obama’s door with the postscript, “Heads up just in case Christmas comes in November for you,” but apparently the helpful advice on the “good war” got lost in the move to Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Nine months later the man who bravely opposed the dethroning of Saddam Hussein and the freeing of 25 million people was anointed president and he picked as vice-president a man who has trouble understanding the meaning of “authorization for the use of MILITARY force against Iraq” (my emphasis).

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  4. President Obama wasted no time tackling the “good war” by keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates, part of the team responsible for the “modestly” successful Iraq surge and a strategy that allowed for only bad and worse options. Moving with all possible speed, he then appointed General McChrystal to head the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in June 2009. This was a good choice: a terrorist killing, Saddam Hussein catching soldier who, despite being an alleged liberal who voted for Obama and banned Fox News, the overwhelmingly preferred news channel of our military, was still loved by his men. And ironically, it has been reported that one of the reasons for this pick was because of McChrystal’s reputation for speaking his mind.

    One year later, McChrystal’s sudden fall was a matter of bad timing. President Obama was already in the mood to kick some A-S-S, and those B.P. guys weren’t even Americans, and up pops a yawner of an article in the extreme left-leaning “Rolling Stone” Magazine, that doesn’t even read true (the best ball-busters in the world are soldiers and cops and “Biden is Bite-me” is the best they can do?), but it gave him a chance to cowboy-up after successful and unsuccessful terrorists attacks made his refusal to associate Islam with terrorism look na├»ve and hissy fits from him and his top people about an immigration law that they divined was bad without reading made them look dull and a dozen other problems have tanked his approval ratings. So it was off with the head of a general he didn’t meet until four months after appointing him and then only to yell at him for hurting the feelings of the vice-president.

    But the general serves at the pleasure of the president so it is well within President Obama’s authority to can his A-S-S. It would have also been perfect timing for the president to appoint one of those “equally competent military experts” that disagreed 180 degrees with the war-waging strategies of President Bush, General Petraeus and Secretary Gates. But in the end, as we know, the Obama Administration showed signs of being just as nostalgic for the Bush years as those Americans that put up the billboard of a cocky Dubya asking, “Miss me yet?” General Petraeus, the man slandered by Moveon.org in a vile newspaper advertisement, was appointed McChrystal’s replacement by a president who refused to condemn the ad when he was a senator questioning the general’s capability (Vice-President Bite-me also refused to condemn the ad).

    Strange trip indeed.

    Rich R.

    Oh, one more thing. What sources do you cite that the great general, Curtis LeMay, was dismissed by President Johnson? Having just read a biography of LeMay, it is my understanding that Johnson simply did not reappoint LeMay and that he retired after 37 years, enjoying an official White House ceremony complete with a presidential send-off and the awarding of his fourth Distinguished Flying Cross.

    Rich R.

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  5. Rich,

    Why am I not surprised that you are a fan of Curtis "Let's Nuke 'Em All" LeMay? To answer your postscript, I have two cites: http://theweek.com/article/index/102748/generals-vs-presidents
    and
    http://whiskeyandgunpowder.com/the-life-and-wars-of-general-curtis-lemay-part-iv-vietnam-and-president-johnson/

    It probably is more accurate to say that LBJ "accepted the retirement" of General LeMay, but in the real-world of Washington politics, LeMay was "forced out." Of course, this did not prevent LBJ from giving LeMay a splendid farewell ceremony and a medal. But as you well know, public ceremonies do not always coincide exactly with what occurs behind-the-scenes.

    As for your comments, I am confused. Do you agree that President Obama made the right call in dismissing Gen. McChrystal? Would you have expected President Bush to have done the same thing, as he did with General Fallon? Somewhere in all of your hyper-critical, Obama-bashing way, you seem to agree with Obama's choice of General Petraeus to replace McChrystal. And I believe that, somewhere in between all of your blabber about Senate hearings in 2007 and your insistence on re-debating the War in Iraq, you reluctantly agree (as I reluctantly do not) with Obama's continued war strategy in Afghanistan. Strange trip indeed.

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  6. Mark,

    First off, thanks for the article by Byron King: I loved it; wished I’d have found it during our dust-up over your September 2009 “Growing Doubts” post; and I wonder if you read it all the way through? The article is a perfect primer for understanding where we’re headed in Afghanistan and I’m glad it was posted after my response because many of his points mirror mine and I would have worried about the possibility of sleep-plagiarizing if the order were reversed. If you did read it, I’m sure you’d agree that characterizing a warrior of LeMay’s accomplishment as someone who wanted to “nuke ‘em all” is terribly demeaning.

    As the article makes clear, a president is entitled to advisors of his choosing. LeMay gave the president sound advice in the proper way to wage war, but it was not the advice President Johnson wanted to hear. LeMay suggested knocking out the North Vietnamese oil supply and their harbors and mining the seacoast to prevent the import of Soviet Union weapons. Hardly the General Jack D. Ripper character a then increasingly liberal Hollywood made him out to be in “Dr. Strangelove.”

    As far as what I was saying in my post, I think if you read it again without the pom-poms of hope and change fluttering in front of you, you might deduce beneath my uncontrollable sarcasm that I was highlighting the Johnson-like ambivalence the two most powerful men in the world share towards two wars they inherited – one they nevertheless championed – and the snake-like ease in which they shed yesterday’s politically advantageous talking points for today’s more realistic pronouncements of their total disinterest in anything that takes away from their completion of the liberal’s holy trinity: New Deal, Great Society and Fundamental Transformation (yes, they need a better catch phrase).

    Was President Obama right to fire General McChrystal? President Obama possesses a gravitas that can be carried away in a soap bubble, so he did the only thing he was capable of doing given his genetic makeup. I would have cheered Obama for the second time if, instead, he had denounced “Rolling Stone” as a liberal rag that sets as its only standard the requirement that writers must use the “F” word at least three times in every article to prove how gutsy they are; that the writer is on record as being a self-admitted slimy worm; and that General McChrystal, a warrior-scholar, is more valuable to the future of this country than a depot full of “Rolling Stone” magazines and a brigade of hacks like Hastings. Not only would this have shown that the president was confident in his position as Commander-in-Chief, but the loyalty that General McChrystal felt to the office of the presidency would have been magnified by the loyalty he now felt to the man.

    You ask my thoughts of the removal by President Bush of General William J. Fallon, which, I have to admit, I knew nothing about, but since your portrayal of General LeMay’s retirement was wrong I did a little digging and can now say the McChrystal and Fallon removals are a world apart. Fallon may have disagreed with Bush, but the president was certainly used to that. What Fallon did, according to MediaMatters, was tell “Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the U.S. would not attack Iran. This became a banner headline in the Egyptian Gazette…” The man is lucky he was allowed to resign. President Bush was on record as saying to the world that his goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon meant that no option was off the table. Big difference.

    Now about your mischaracterizing my post as “re-debating the War in Iraq,” some questions:

    Do you think it is unimportant that our president is on record as opposing General Petraeus’ handling of Iraq in 2008 but now finds him qualified to handle Afghanistan? (And in answer to your question, both Patraeus and McChrystal seem to me to be highly capable professionals who have been treated badly by lesser men.)

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  7. Do you find it trivial that a vice-president, shaping policy that sends men and women into harm’s way, has difficulty understating what “military force” means? And seems incapable of developing a few core principles?

    Do you find it hypocritical that President Obama switches back and forth from a deficit hawk to Bernie Madoff?

    Does it make you uncomfortable that the president plays fast and loose with facts regarding Iraq?

    I believe I’ve posed this question before but I’ll ask it again: If I use a man’s own words accurately and my facts are accurate can I justly be accused of “Obama-bashing”?

    Finally (and notice how I answer questions…), regarding Obama’s war strategy: I agree with the concept of bringing freedom and democracy to oppressed people (it is, after all, the motto of our Special Forces) and in successfully doing so, we make the world a better and safer place. Having said that, there is one huge problem and that is that the task is incredibly difficult, although far from impossible, and it takes a resolute, Bush-like iron will to pull it off. It takes a nation committed to the task and accepting of the fact that its success will take decades. Today, we are a nation split down the middle. One group thinks our military should be safe at home, training on bases, going out to fight only after we’ve been attacked and only for a specified amount of time (“…how long will this take? And at what point do we say enough?”). The other half believes that it is better to take the fight to the enemy, that as long as the military is stacking up terrorists like cord wood, they should keep at it. If we are still killing al Qaeda in Afghanistan twenty years from now, then so be it because that is the job of the military (have we waved the white flag in our battle against rapists and robbers?).

    But should we be nation building in Afghanistan? Probably not. There was a reason President Bush focused on Iraq and not Afghanistan. Iraq has potential and a willing citizenry; it can become a thriving democracy. Afghanistan has many strikes against it including the deadliest right now, a Democratic president. So Afghanistan should continue to be used as a good hunting ground until the game is played out and then we should move on to places richer in targets.

    Along this line there is a fascinating and, for some, hopeful article in the “Washington Post” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html) that reports on President Obama’s expanded use of our Special Forces. If true, my hat’s off to the president who may be a closet warmonger. As was reported: “The clearest public description of the secret-war aspects of the doctrine came from White House counterterrorism director John O. Brennan. He said last week that the United States ‘will not merely respond after the fact’ of a terrorist attack but will ‘take the fight to al-Qaeda and its extremist affiliates whether they plot and train in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.’”
    It may be premature, but I’ll give President Obama that second cheer now. Let’s just hope, in the immortal words of Harry Callahan, that President Obama is a man who knows his limitations.

    Rich R.

    Just read an article you might be interested in: Dick Polman in the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a dead-on critique titled “Antiwar liberals’ Obama frustration.” I’ve never read Polman before and have no idea of his ideology (he looks liberal!) but he nailed the difficulty of a modern Democrat waging war.

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  8. Rich,

    All you have pointed out is that, yes, President Obama was opposed to the War in Iraq but supported the use of military force in Afghanistan. He has always held that position and there is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical about the statements you cite. There is a strong feeling among many on both the left and the right that Bush's diversion into Iraq following the initial invasion of Afghanistan (which was in direct response to the attack against our country on 9/11 -- that is where bin Laden was believed to be hiding out, with the support and acquiescence of the Taliban) caused us to fail to achieve the original mission. 9/11 was not about Iraq. The War in Iraq was not about 9/11. Bush and his cronies truly believed that the Iraqi people would jump with joy when American forces "liberated" them. I wish they had been right, but sadly they only looked grotesquely wrong and naive. Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al., orignally thought that we would be out of Iraq in a relatively short amount of time.

    To invade a country in order to spread "democracy" is simply not what the United States is, or ever should be, about. It also was not the stated reasons our dear President George W. gave to the American people to justify our military action. There are so many reasons why we were wrong to fight a war in Iraq, I simply do not have the patience or the time to delve into it now. But suffice it to say that President Obama has not changed his position on that point. The questions he raised in 2007 and 2008, and the questions he asked, were and continue to be very valid.

    That he did not support Bush's Iraq war policies, however, does not mean he has a problem with Petraeus. In fact, it appears that he has a very good relationship with Petraeus, one that was not shared with McChrystal.

    By the way, I don't read Rolling Stone magazine, so I know very little about it. I know enough to know, however, that if I am the U.S. General in charge of the Afghan War, I am not going to permit a Rolling Stone writer to hang out with my closest advisors. But I do not fault the reporter for doing his job. It was, in fact, an interesting article and very good reporting. He did his job. McChrystal did not.

    Although I did not mention it in my post, perhaps the most troubling observation in the Rolling Stone article, attributed to one of McChrystal's senior aides, was the statement, "If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular."

    There is a point where we have to evaluate what is happening and what the odds of success are, and what success even means. Americans have always had trouble with the concept of us being the world's policemen. While I would hate to see us resort to the isolationism of the Republican Party in the early part of the 20th Century, our military force must be reserved to actions that have a clear objective, involve defense of American interests and that of our allies, are achievable (this is an important one), and are supported by the American people (we are a democracy in case you forgot).

    (cont'd)

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  9. Rich (cont’d):

    We could win the war tomorrow if we just dropped a nuclear bomb on the Afghans. But at what cost to America's moral soul? And long-term security?

    If President Kennedy had listened to the advice of General LeMay during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we would all probably be dead now. A fairly favorable biographical sketch of LeMay in Wikipedia, consistent with what I have read concerning LeMay in biographies of John and Robert Kennedy, notes that General LeMay clashed with President Kennedy and Defense Secretary McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis, "arguing that he should be allowed to bomb nuclear missile sites in Cuba. He opposed the naval blockade and, after the end of the crisis, suggested that Cuba be invaded anyway, even after the Russians agreed to withdraw. LeMay called the peaceful resolution of the crisis 'the greatest defeat in our history'. Unknown to the U.S., the Soviet field commanders in Cuba had been given authority to launch — the only time such authority was delegated by higher command. They had twenty nuclear warheads for medium-range R-12 ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. cities (including Washington) and nine tactical nuclear missiles. If Soviet officers had launched them, many millions of U.S. citizens would have been killed. The ensuing SAC retaliatory thermonuclear strike would have killed roughly one hundred million Soviet citizens, and brought nuclear winter to much of the Northern Hemisphere. Kennedy refused LeMay's strident requests, however, and the naval blockade was successful."

    This is why I do not trust all aspects of any war or conflict to the generals. It is why we have civilian command of our armed forces.

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  10. Mark,

    “9/11 was not about Iraq. The War in Iraq was not about 9/11. . . To invade a country in order to spread "democracy" is simply not what the United States is, or ever should be, about. It also was not the stated reasons our dear President George W. gave to the American people to justify our military action. . . our military force must be reserved to actions that have a clear objective, involve defense of American interests and that of our allies, are achievable (this is an important one), and are supported by the American people (we are a democracy in case you forgot).”

    The following document is six pages long, almost as long as the Arizona immigration law that no Democrat, apparently, has the ability to read from beginning to end, so I took the liberty of editing it down and highlighting the parts that apply to your analysis of the Iraq War.

    PUBLIC LAW 107–243—OCT. 16, 2002
    AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002

    107th Congress Joint Resolution

    Whereas in 1990 in response to Iraq’s war of aggression against and illegal occupation of Kuwait, the United States forged a coalition of nations to liberate Kuwait and its people in order to defend the national security of the United States and enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq;

    Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

    Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

    Whereas Iraq, in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

    Whereas in Public Law 105–235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq’s continuing weapons of mass destruction programs THREATENED VITAL UNITED STATES INTERESTS and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in ‘‘material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations’’ and urged the President ‘‘to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations’’;

    Whereas Iraq both poses a CONTINUING THREAT TO THE NATIONAL SECURITY OF THE UNITED STATES and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and SUPPORTING AND HARBORING TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS;

    Whereas Iraq persists in violating resolution of the United Nations Security Council by continuing to engage in BRUTAL REPRESSION OF ITS CIVILIAN POPULATION THEREBY THREATENING INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY IN THE REGION, by refusing to release, repatriate, or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongfully detained by Iraq, including an AMERICAN SERVICEMAN, and by failing to return property wrongfully seized by Iraq from Kuwait;

    Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;

    (Continued…)

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  11. Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its continuing hostility toward, and willingness to attack, the United States, including by ATTEMPTING IN 1993 TO ASSASSINATE FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH and by firing on many thousands of occasions on United States and Coalition Armed Forces engaged in enforcing the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council;

    WHEREAS MEMBERS OF AL QAIDA, AN ORGANIZATION BEARING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATTACKS ON THE UNITED STATES, ITS CITIZENS, AND INTERESTS, INCLUDING THE ATTACKS THAT OCCURRED ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, ARE KNOWN TO BE IN IRAQ;

    Whereas IRAQ CONTINUES TO AID AND HARBOR OTHER INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS, INCLUDING ORGANIZATIONS THAT THREATEN THE LIVES AND SAFETY OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS;

    Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

    Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself;

    Whereas UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 678 (1990) AUTHORIZES THE USE OF ALL NECESSARY MEANS to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions and TO COMPEL IRAQ TO CEASE certain activities that threaten international peace and security, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and refusal or obstruction of United Nations weapons inspections in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), REPRESSION OF ITS CIVILIAN POPULATION IN VIOLATION OF UNITED NATIONS Security Council Resolution 688 (1991), and threatening its neighbors or United Nations operations in Iraq in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 949 (1994);

    Whereas in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102–1), Congress has authorized the President ‘‘to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) in order to achieve implementation of Security Council Resolution 660, 661, 662, 664, 665, 666, 667, 669, 670, 674, and 677’’;

    Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it ‘‘supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102–1),’’ THAT IRAQ’S REPRESSION OF ITS CIVILIAN POPULATION VIOLATES UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 688 and ‘‘constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,’’ and that CONGRESS, ‘‘SUPPORTS THE USE OF ALL NECESSARY MEANS to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688’’;

    Whereas the IRAQ LIBERATION ACT OF 1998 (Public Law 105–338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES TO SUPPORT EFFORTS TO REMOVE FROM POWER THE CURRENT IRAQI REGIME AND PROMOTE THE EMERGENCE OF A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT TO REPLACE THAT REGIME;

    Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to ‘‘work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge’’ posed by Iraq and to ‘‘work for the necessary resolutions,’’ while also making clear that ‘‘the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable’’;

    (Continued…)

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  12. Whereas the United States is determined to prosecute the war on terrorism and IRAQ’S ONGOING SUPPORT FOR INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST GROUPS combined with its development of weapons of mass destruction in direct violation of its obligations under the 1991 cease-fire and other United Nations Security Council resolutions make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States and in furtherance of the war on terrorism that all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions be enforced, including through the use of force if necessary;

    Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or AIDED the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or HARBORED such persons or organizations;

    Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or AIDED the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or HARBORED such persons or organizations;

    Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40); and

    Whereas it is in the NATIONAL SECURITY INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region:

    Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled…

    Now Mark, I know how you feel. I still remember to this day having the “Santa” talk with my mom in our kitchen. But there are facts and then there are “facts,” the latter taking on the appearance of truth only because of constant repetition by people in position of influence who lie. In your “Growing Doubts” post, you made the same accusations and, at that time, I demonstrated you were wrong by quoting, at length, EXACTLY what the president told the American people. Now I have presented what the democratically elected representatives of the American people voted for.

    Can we, for the love of God, put these falsehoods to rest?

    If not, and if you are a man of honor, you will present your evidence that supports your claim and contradicts the evidence that I have submitted here and elsewhere.

    By the way, just for giggles, I searched the resolution for Vice-President Biden’s favorite word to describe what he thought he was agreeing to by voting “yea” on the resolution, but “isolate” makes no appearance.

    Now as far as the Cuban Missile Crisis, if you want to jump into the deep end, I’ll go there with you, but we’ll have to begin at the beginning and ask why the Russians viewed President Kennedy as so weak that they thought they could get away with arming Cuba. Kennedy had not just finished a world-wide apology tour and, like President Bush with Putin, had looked Krushchev in his eyes, viewed his soul, and believed him when the Soviet Premier had given his word that he would not put missiles in Cuba. So why such a gutsy move against the most lethal country in the world? That will require a step back to the Bay of Pigs and the heroes who were left to die on the beaches. It will also involve understanding why the Russians finally blinked, which had less to do with a playboy president and more with the huge file they had compiled on the very serious man of war who reformed the Strategic Air Command into an Armageddon Delivery System.

    So let me know.

    Rich R.

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  13. Rich,

    On September 11, 2007, former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer specifically acknowledged to the Washington Post that "Iraqis did not attack us on 9/11." In his mind, however, that did not matter, because some of the same sorts of people who did are now fighting U.S. forces in Iraq. "The point is not that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. They're not. But 9/11 should be a vivid reminder to everyone about how vulnerable our country is and that's why we need to win in Iraq."

    The same article pointed out that every investigation into the matter “has shown that Iraq did not, in fact, have anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/11/AR2007091102316_2.html

    The bi-partisan Sept. 11 Commission specifically found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. If you read the 9/11 Report, you will see the same thing.

    And as reported in the Washington Post on June 16, 2004: “[The] report of the commission's staff, based on its access to all relevant classified information, said that there had been contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no cooperation. In [a June 15, 2004] hearing of the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a senior FBI official and a senior CIA analyst concurred with the finding.

    “The staff report said that bin Laden ‘explored possible cooperation with Iraq’ while in Sudan through 1996, but that ‘Iraq apparently never responded’ to a bin Laden request for help in 1994. The commission cited reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1996, adding, ‘but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.’

    “Bush, speaking to troops in Tampa [on June 11, 2004], did not mention an Iraq-al Qaeda link, saying only that Iraq ‘sheltered terrorist groups.’ That was a significantly milder version of the allegations administration officials have made since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    “In late 2001, Cheney said it was ‘pretty well confirmed’ that Sept. 11 mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official before the attacks, in April 2000 in Prague; Cheney later said the meeting could not be proved or disproved.

    … “In September [2003], Cheney said on NBC's ‘Meet the Press’ . . . ‘The Iraqi government or the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s.’ Shortly after Cheney asserted these links, Bush contradicted him, saying: ‘We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th.’ …

    “The [9/11] commission staff, in yesterday's report, said that while bin Laden was in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, a senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan, and that he had a meeting with bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden was reported to have sought training camps and assistance in getting weapons, ‘but Iraq never responded,’ the staff said. The report said that bin Laden ‘at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan.’

    “As for the Atta meeting in Prague mentioned by Cheney, the commission staff concluded: ‘We do not believe that such a meeting occurred.’ It cited FBI photographic and telephone evidence, along with Czech and U.S. investigations, as well as reports from detainees, including the Iraqi official with whom Atta was alleged to have met. On the 1993 trade center bombing, the staff found ‘substantial uncertainty’ about whether bin Laden and al Qaeda were involved.”

    (cont'd)

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  14. Rich (cont'd):

    See also http://www.seattlepi.com/attack/140133_bushiraq18.html :

    “President Bush, having repeatedly linked Saddam Hussein to the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said [on September 17, 2003] there is no evidence that the deposed Iraqi leader had a hand in those attacks, in contrast to the belief of most Americans. The president's comments came in response to a reporter's question about Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion Sunday on NBC's 'Meet The Press' program that Iraq was the 'geographic base' of the terrorists behind the attacks on New York and Washington. Bush said yesterday there was no attempt by the administration to try to confuse people about any link between Saddam and Sept. 11. 'No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th,' Bush said.

    "... Retired NATO commander Wesley Clark, in a little noticed appearance on NBC's 'Meet The Press' on June 15, 2003, charged that 'a concerted effort ... to pin 9/11' on Saddam began in the fall of 2001, and 'it came from people around the White House.' . . . White House National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, in an interview on ABC's 'Nightline' in June 2003, said one of the reasons Bush went to war against Saddam was because he posed a threat in 'a region from which the 9/11 threat emerged.' But she insisted, 'We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11.' Her remarks echoed those of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon earlier that same day. Asked if Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, Rumsfeld replied, 'I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.'

    Now, Rich, for the love of God, if you are "a man of honor," will you finally admit that the War in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11? The invasion of Afghanistan was about 9/11. That is where we should have focused our efforts, without diverting them to Iraq. Did Iraq provide some support for terrorist groups? Certainly, and I have never suggested otherwise. But numerous countries other than Iraq have been far more complicit in support for terrorism around the world (Iran, Syria, North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, and let's not forget Saudi Arabia, from where 15 of the 19 individuals who attacked us came from) -- yet we did not attack those countries. We also have not tried to forcefully spread democracy to those countries, even though many continue to be far more oppressive than even Saddam was. Perhaps that is because (1) it is not the American way, (2) it is not something the American people would support (if told the truth as to why we would be going to war), and (3) it would be a highly difficult objective to achieve, regardless of the military and tactical obstacles.

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  15. Mark,

    I’ll say this, Biden’s got nothing on you. Sometimes arguing with you is like arguing with a . . . never mind, the last thing I need is Andrea or Hannah kicking my A.S.S.

    Let’s try this another way:

    Various accusations/statements made by Old Mark:

    1. “. . . we were wrong to invade Iraq, a war which was entered under false pretenses and which diverted our military and security resources in a country that had not attacked us and that posed no direct threat to us.”

    2. “As for Iraq II, George W. did not make the argument you made above -- he implied that Iraq was responsible for 9/11 (a lie) and that he was hoarding WMD (a falsehood).”

    3. “9/11 was not about Iraq.”

    4. “The War in Iraq was not about 9/11. . .”

    5. “To invade a country in order to spread "democracy" is simply not what the United States is, or ever should be, about. It also was not the stated reasons our dear President George W. gave to the American people to justify our military action. . .”

    6. “. . . our military force must be reserved to actions that have a clear objective, involve defense of American interests and that of our allies, are achievable (this is an important one), and are supported by the American people. . .”

    And now New Mark:

    “. . .Ari Fleischer specifically acknowledged to the Washington Post that ‘Iraqis did not attack us on 9/11.’”

    “The same article pointed out that every investigation into the matter ‘has shown that Iraq did not, in fact, have anything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.’”

    “The bi-partisan Sept. 11 Commission specifically found no ‘collaborative relationship’ between Iraq and al Qaeda.”

    “‘[The] report of the commission's staff, based on its access to all relevant classified information, said that there had been contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no cooperation.’”

    “‘We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.’”

    “‘Bush, speaking to troops in Tampa [on June 11, 2004], did not mention an Iraq-al Qaeda link, saying only that Iraq ‘sheltered terrorist groups.’”

    “‘. . .Bush contradicted him, saying: ‘We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th attacks.’”

    “‘Bush said yesterday there was no attempt by the administration to try to confuse people about any link between Saddam and Sept. 11. ‘No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th,’ Bush said.’”

    “‘But (National Security Adviser Rice) insisted, ‘We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11.’. . . Asked if Saddam was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replied, 'I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that.’”

    So, Mark, let’s understand what just happened here: You made specific charges (Numbers 1 through 6) that I refuted, using the words and deeds of the two branches of government responsible for the declaring and waging of war. Having proved you wrong, I challenged you, nevertheless, to back up your charges and you respond by whitewashing your past statements and reimagining the debate in a way that argues against a charge that was never made except by you and a litter of liberals. You then provide compelling evidence to prove that this fantasy charge is false.

    Now, of course, the irony of this is that the evidence New Mark cited goes directly towards proving as false the charges Old Mark advanced in Number 2 above. In fact, I wish I had used them.

    As you have stated, Bush never claimed that Saddam Hussein “collaborated” with al Qaeda in the attacks of September 11. He never claimed it and I never claimed it.

    Only Old Mark made that claim.

    But I think you’re making progress, friend!

    (Continued…)

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  16. Now you can repeat “The War in Iraq was not about 9/11” as many times as you want - try it three times and click your heels even - but it won't get you back to a Kansas in which elected officials did not vote for a resolution that included, "Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq."

    The fact is that the Iraq War was a direct result of the lessons learned from 9-11 and President Bush was quite clear on this point: "I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer." Now most presidents, like most people in general, want credit for what they do, but earning credit for what they do to prevent something from happening is much harder to justify. We can't say that if not for Bush, Saddam would have tried to assassinate another U.S. president; we cannot say that but for Bush's action Saddam would have exported his Kurd killing weapons of mass destruction to the New York subway system; we cannot say that without Bush, Saddam would have supplied al Qaeda with even more aid, comfort and resources. This, in the end, was Bush's greatest strength. Even though he knew, or should have known, that the Iraq War was a lose-lose for him personally, he understood that it was not about him, but about protecting this country from the next 9-11. In his judgment, Iraq, at that time, posed the greatest threat and he took action.

    You might also recall that Bush never blamed the previous administration for the terrorist threat he inherited. That would be conduct unbecoming a man and, justly or not, Bush accepted that the attacks of September 11th happened on his watch. He took responsibility and took aggressive steps to prevent another attack.

    President Obama faces the same dilemma now. It is clear (from available intelligence) that the government of Iran will soon possess nuclear weapons and it is clear from their words and deeds that they will use those weapons. President Obama can choose to do nothing except talk tough and hope that the attack does not happen on his watch, or he can choose strong action that will result in death and destruction for which he will be held accountable, while the holocaust he prevents will be impossible to prove.

    The presidency is a unique job, in which success is seldom measurable in the short term. It will take years and probably decades to determine if Bush's earth-tilting actions have changed the world for better or worse. It takes a unique leader to win a popularity contest and then have the confidence to put the need for approval aside and do what is necessary. Our president today is in a tough spot, having passed the point where inheritance as an excuse for failure carries any weight, and must now be held fully responsible for the safety of this country. President Obama believed that his election alone was enough to start the receding of the oceans, but he has since learned that only the incompetence of terrorists has saved his presidency from disaster.

    There are hopeful signs, however, that President Obama may yet act boldly. Despite overwhelming resistance by the American people, he has pushed through the detested OmabaCare and is now attacking Arizona against the will of her residents and the majority of the rest of America. If he can be half as strong with Ahmadinejad then we may yet avoid a nightmare that makes September 11 seem like the good ol’ days.

    Rich R.

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  17. Rich,

    Let's try it another way. Look at this site:

    http://www.americanprogress.org/kf/priraqclaimfact1029.htm

    You can attempt to state all you want that Bush and Cheney did not mislead the American people into thinking that somehow Saddam was connected to 9/11. When they promoted on numerous occasions that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam (as the resolution you cite repeats several times), they were of course linking Saddam, directly or indirectly (it does not matter) to al-Qaeda and 9/11. True, emphasis was placed on the whole WMD issue, which unfortunately for Colin Powell turned out to be mostly inaccurate and based on faulty intelligence -- but the Dems fell for that one as easily as the Republicans, so shame on all of them. Cheney was very explicit about linking 9/11 to Iraq. Perhaps you are being too literalistic about the whole thing, but there is no getting around the fact that Bush's reasons for fighting Iraq were, in reality, different from his stated and implied justifications.

    Now, what any of this has to do with what I originally wrote, I do not know, but we are clearly never going to see eye-to-eye on this one.

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  18. Mark,

    I'll keep this brief and then hang myself.

    When you accuse someone of an unforgivable sin, such as sending men off to die based on lies or misleading statements, then you must be - you have a duty to be - "literal."

    Rich R.

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