[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: The Problem: We Aren't Serious

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Problem: We Aren't Serious

Glenn Reynolds (and Mohammed) and TM Lutas are both right: the USA has lost momentum in the war AND the USA is doing the best it can. There is no contradiction. The problem is not military but political. The Bush administration lacks sufficient domestic support to prosecute the war at the pace favored by those of us who think Syria and Iran should be next (and should have been next a long time ago). We lack the resources to do much more than we are doing.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this situation. Bush and his staff must be faulted for their chronic ineptitude at explaining his program to the American people, and for not doing much to compensate for the President's known rhetorical weakness. He means well but he could have done much more to get the message out. The Democratic leadership must be faulted for its cynicism and intellectual corruption in lying about the war, and about its own previously held positions, in order to divide Americans and enhance its own political leverage at a time of national crisis. Congressional Republicans must be faulted for spending recklessly on all kinds of frivolous junk instead of concentrating on winning the war. (Why not cut some of that pork and instead allocate the funds to increased troop levels and more armored vehicles -- so that we won't have to ignore Iran because we're already maxed out in Iraq? Those are the kinds of earmarks many of us could support.) And a plurality of American voters must be faulted for insisting on business as usual from our elected representatives instead of demanding bipartisan support to win the war. Too many of us have deluded ourselves into believing that our national problem with Islamic extremism will go away if we hunker down and stop poking the hornets' nest. It won't: the Islamists always interpret any hunkering down by us or our allies as weakness.

Time is not on our side. How many Pearl Harbors will it take for us to become serious about winning this war? The sooner we retake the initiative, the better.


(Initially posted on Chicago Boyz.)

15 Comments:

Anonymous Rick said...

The Democratic leadership must be faulted for its cynicism and intellectual corruption in lying about the war, and about its own previously held positions, in order to divide Americans and enhance its own political leverage at a time of national crisis.

This, Jonathan, is the most ironic statement I've read by a conservative for a long, long time.

And from the LA Times:

Sept. 11 is often compared to another day of infamy, Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Historians, however, see no comparison. World War II demanded personal sacrifice from every American family. The global war on terrorism has touched only a few directly, even as the threat level bounces from orange to yellow to orange to red.

.

12:17 PM, October 08, 2006  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

Sorry, I don't get it. You snark about some irony that you perceive. You quote a thinly disguised LA Times editorial as if it proves something. What's the point? That Bush is exaggerating the threat for political purposes? Yes? No? Maybe? Why don't you spell it out. Tell us your alternative plan for dealing with Islamism, Iran, North Korea.

Of course when that nuke in a shipping container goes off you'll blame Bush for not having done more.

11:25 PM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger The Universal Spectator said...

Jonathan, Amen! I think the American people (excluding moonbats like Rick, et al) know how serious the situation is. But I agree with you that another tragedy has to happen before the sleping giant is awakened and filled with a terrible resolve.

BTW, North Korea tested a nuke a few hours ago. Was that was Bush's fault too, or is Kim covering up for Foley?

2:53 AM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger El Guardia Rural said...

We've never been serious since the beginning. I can't recall long lines at the recruiting stations after Sept. 11. Unfortunately as Americans we are soft, entrapped in all our luxuries. We do not have the fortitude to serve in the Armed Forces. That's what is wrong with the US. Support Our Troops Become One.

12:26 PM, October 09, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Jonathan....if I have to spell out to you how ironic it is that a Republican makes a statement that the Democratic leadership has lied about the war and its previously held positions in order to divide this country for their own political advantage, we really are unable to talk and to explain myself would be a total waste of time.

And, yeah, I will blame Bush for that bomb that goes off in a shipping container. And you'll blame Clinton. We're so predictable aren't we?

10:34 PM, October 09, 2006  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

I would blame the terrorists and their backers.

But if we're talking only about US leaders I would blame Clinton, and Bush, and Bush's father, and Reagan and Carter. They all screwed up in various ways. Since 1979 we've tried appeasing the Islamists, ignoring the Islamists, and various realpolitik strategies involving favoring one dictator over another. None of these strategies worked: we ended up with (among others) the Beirut bombing and the WTC bombing and the Cole bombing and 9/11.

Bush Jr. is the first president to actually formulate a new plan -- which, by process of elimination, appears to have been the only possible plan left. And he has screwed some things up. But the critics, instead of offering to help, can only stand on the sidelines and carp (with the full benefit of hindsight): "Two years ago you should have zigged instead of zagged. Last year you should have zagged instead of zigged. You didn't give us accurate information at a time when no one had accurate information. (etc.)" But they never say what he should do next, with the exception of some benign focus-grouped ideas that everyone favors anyway, like improving port security.

So why not tell us what President Rick would do? Bush is long gone. Congress and the voters support you. What do we do next? What do we do in the long run? What's your view of the big picture? What happens if we fail? What constitutes success? What should be our strategy?

12:27 AM, October 10, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Jesus H. Christ, Jonathan, people write books on this stuff and you want me to crystallize my thoughts into one comment block. Only to once again be subjected to name-calling and stereotyping and everything else that the rabid right likes to do? Hardly.

I've learned that there's no reasoning with a Bush conservative. Anything you offer them is rejected. They just don't get it and they never will. Your "ironic" statement is classic proof of that.

The good thing is that the rabid right is fast becoming the minority in this country. It's unfortunate that it's taken 3 years and 1 election for these people to get to where the rest of us who saw this coming before it even started were at years ago. This isn't a case of Monday morning quarterbacking, Jonathan. There are many people who have been dead set against the policies of this Administration from the very beginning.

This a classic case of "I told you so."

6:16 PM, October 10, 2006  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

What's so hard about summarizing your views in one comment? I just did it. Or try this. Tell us what President Rick would have done on Sept. 12, 2001 and afterwards. Not all the details, just the main points: the nature of the problems facing us, if any, and your strategy in response, if any.

10:58 PM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger NicFitKid said...

Well I don't know about Prez Rick, but Prez NFK would have kept the focus on smashing Al-Qaeda quickly and trapping Osama at Tora Bora, rather than falling for Rumsfeldian military planning that believed in a handful of overworked SpecOps, a fistful of JDAMS, and a whole mess of Afghan mercernaries to close the deal. If you're going to commit whole divisions to kill and be killed, and least put them where the enemy lives. As for Iraq, going there was a strategic blunder (compounded by SecDef meddling with the TPFDL), and if you haven't figured that out by now, you'll never figure it out.

This adminstration was populated by Iraq-obsessed fabulists who'd been writing papers on how Saddam was the source of all Evil since the end of the first Gulf War, and their initial reaction to 9/11 was "great, how can we pin this on Iraq?" No clear-eyed realists here, just NeoCon bureaucratic in-fighters eager to convert American foreign policy into a bull in the Middle Eastern china shop, a sloppy state vs. state reaction to an attack carried out by a non-state actor.

It was never about WMD, it was never about a direct threat from Iraq to the U.S., it was about misguided policy-wonks gone amok and peddling their vision of a bright and shiny Middle Eastern future delivered by force of American arms.

Wake up and smell the quagmire, you conservative blowhards (all run and no gun motherfuckers). Syria? Iran? Are you shitting me? What, you're going quadruple the size the Army and make war on 1.6 billion muslims, that's your fucking solution? How about pushing for democratic reforms on the governments we actually have some leverage with like Egypt and Pakistan? Too boring for you, doesn't play as well on Fox News as sexy guncam footage from a cruise missile or bunker buster? Too fucking bad, the Middle East is what it is, and you won't reform the muslim world with high explosives and a Douglas Feith memo.

And now that the pretzel logic is falling apart in the reality chamber you can't control you're all pointing fingers every which way. It's Clinton fault, it's Bush the Elder's fault, it's the American people's fault because they don't have the desire to spread Pax Americana with GBU-28s. It's everything else's fault but the stupid fantasy policies you've been cheerleading for years. How the hell can you blame Dems with a straight face when your GOP heroes have controlled all three branches of government for the past five years?

You've been eating soup with a knife all this time, and only now are you crying about the blood in the broth.

7:23 AM, October 12, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Rick,

Besides offering some of your ideas as Jonathan has asked you, why don't you admit that the Democrats haven't exactly stepped up to the plate and offered real alternatives to the faulty Bush administration plans and execution? I have criticized the Bush administration, Jonathan just did here, and all you do is criticize those who weren't as enlightened as you were 3 years ago.

You know as much as I do that if the Democrats would have even half-decent leadership and a real grasp on what Americans really want, Bush would have been sent packing back to Crawford in 2004. The fact that Bush is still in office has EVERYTHING to do with the ineptitude of the Democratic Party. Admitting otherwise is living in a dreamworld.

So Rick, let me ask you...what would you have done? Because dancing around the question is exactly what the Democrats have been doing for 3 years now, and it hasn't done anyone a bit of good.

6:18 PM, October 12, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Thank you, nicfitkid.

What he said.

.

6:34 AM, October 13, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Okay Rick, I guess you're borrowing NFK's ideas.

I have a question regarding one of the things NFK wrote: he says he would push for democratic reforms in places such as Egypt and Pakistan where we "have some leverage". Sounds good, except for one thing. How will "pushing" for democratic reforms in other countries (such as Iraq!) help defeat the enemy? Are you implying that the terrorists will cave in to democratic reforms in Egypt, Pakistan, or anywhere else for that matter?

The way I see it is, the terrorists aren't interested in reforms, negotiations, and things that normal freedom loving people desire. They are interested in the annihilation of a society...ours.

Please tell me how anything except killing them will solve this problem.

8:48 AM, October 13, 2006  
Blogger NicFitKid said...

The way I see it is, the terrorists aren't interested in reforms, negotiations, and things that normal freedom loving people desire. They are interested in the annihilation of a society...ours.

Please tell me how anything except killing them will solve this problem. --Robert


A war of attrition? Against a self-replicating, self-starting viral model of terrorism that needs violent displays of Western military power to continue recruiting disaffected muslim youth? Wow, that's a great plan, let me know how high the body count gets in another twenty years when you're still fighting terrorism this way.

Look, I know the Prez calls it a War on Terrorism, but I think a lot of people don't understand that this isn't World War III. This is not a 3rd generation war of maneuver, where eventually the enemy's formations are rendered combat-ineffective and their commanders surrender. There are no formations, there is no unified command to defeat. We're fighting 21st century guerilla warfare as waged by transnational, non-state actors. Killing them is only one tool in the tool box. You also have to delegitimize their cause, or the recruiting well will never dry up. You have to infiltrate and break up their networks with human agents, not just peek at a distance with spy satellites and NSA listening posts. You have to strengthen relationships with other countries in the Middle East, while at the same time encouraging them to democratize and protect civil society within their own borders, so that their citizens don't see their rulers as corrupt pharaohs and thus turn to the idealized vision of an incorruptible political Islam peddled by the jihadis.

Our best chance to demythologize al-Qaeda and Osama was early on in Afghanistan, when they were still centralized. When we let the leadership get away, we conferred heroic status upon them in the muslim world, a near-biblical tale of David vs. Goliath (hint: no one thinks we're David, and everbody hates Goliath). We compunded that error by allowing the new Afghanistan to fester under nation-building lite pursued half-heartedly by an administration that didn't believe in the idea. Then the Iraq fabulists finally got their wish, and we steamrolled Saddam. Yeah! Go U.S.A! Except now it's three and half-years later, we still can't provide security for the Iraqi people (so they don't trust us, plus there's that whole bad occupation aftertaste), Jihadis came streaming into Iraq for the free live-fire training, and ethnic militias send nightly deathsquads to ply their bloody trade while their bosses maneuver for control over government ministries. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's weak government is facing the resurgence of the Taliban.

You want to just kill a lot of jihadis? Fine, just stay in Iraq, I'm sure quite a few will take up the offer. Even more, however, will make it back out, and even more will be inspired by the occupation to start their own terror cells across the globe. The invasion of Iraq was a bad idea badly executed, and the War on Terror is turining out the same way. Rather than looking for the glib and self-satisfying "kill 'em all" approach, we need leadership that understands and can implement a multi-faceted approach that can counter on-going terrorist operations, weaken their civilian support by providing politcal alternatives within their own societies, and promote an image of the U.S. as a just and fair country. It's tough work, it doesn't play well in a soundbite, and it involves a lot of non-military agencies like (gasp!) the State Department. But hey, we're grown-ups, life is hard and mostly boring, we know this already. I'd rather have a boring solution than more reels of guncam footage to entertain me on the cable news.

I mean, it's kind of sad just how badly we managed to screw the pooch on this. What do jihadis have to offer the muslim world? Some wack Wahhabi vision of a neo-caliphate modeled after the seventh century? I don't think the majority of the globe's 1.6 billion muslims are interested in that. And yet our current leadership hasn't figured out a way to implement a global vision to compete with that sick shit. Which makes me wonder if they understand the new rules of the game, or even care.

4:06 PM, October 13, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

NFK for President in '08!

Not to take anything away from NFK's brilliant prose, all of this has been said by numerous others over the course of the last 4 years so it's not exactly groud-breaking territory we're covering here. But each time it's discounted, each time it's criticized, each time the speaker is characterized as just another moonbat by the right.

And because I've seen it happen so many times, I don't waste my breath any more. I leave the message and the fight to those like NFK who haven't tired of the nonsense. Thank goodness for that.

5:22 PM, October 13, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

NFK,

For how many years now have the Muslim extremists been attacking us? You can go back to at least the Iran hostage crisis back in 1979.

My point here is, they don't and have never needed any provocation to attack and hurt us. This idea that the war in Iraq has all of a sudden awoken the jihadists goes against history and common sense in my very humble opinion. In fact, it can be argued that capturing and killing Bin Laden would martyrize him and embolden the jihadists even more. This of course wouldn't stop me from killing the guy, but it shows how crazy and hell-bent these people are on killing US.

You said:

You also have to delegitimize their cause, or the recruiting well will never dry up. You have to infiltrate and break up their networks with human agents, not just peek at a distance with spy satellites and NSA listening posts. You have to strengthen relationships with other countries in the Middle East, while at the same time encouraging them to democratize and protect civil society within their own borders, so that their citizens don't see their rulers as corrupt pharaohs and thus turn to the idealized vision of an incorruptible political Islam peddled by the jihadis.

You are 100% correct NFK. We have tried to democratize Afghanistan. We have tried to democratize Iraq. Both have worked to some extent, unless the images of people with purple thumbs was a mirage. The execution of this effort has been lacking, I think we can all agree on that. Fine. We can also agree that a better job needs to be done to catch all of the people responsible for promoting and funding terrorist groups. Fine also.

It's ironic NFK because Bush believes in exactly what you wrote. How many people on the left have scoffed at Bush's notion that a democratic Iraq is the key to solving the problems in the Middle East? Yet, you essentially agree at least partially with that theory. I agree that it is an important and necessary piece to the puzzle, but how do we get rid of people that are not interested in democracy, not interested in sitting down and negotiating the well-being of their fellow countrymen and Arabs? Will sitting down at a table with reasonable and democratically-minded leaders and signing a piece of paper enough to change the minds of the jihadists? The answer to that is obvious.

One thing that has to happen is for the "moderates" in these Arab countries to step up and denounce the terrorists. Sadly, this hasn't happened enough, if at all. They're too busy either fleeing to Europe and the U.S., hiding, or spending their entire time criticizing the US instead of dedicating part of their talents and efforts into defeating the eneny within. They would rather make the U.S. look bad than people of their own blood and religion, it appears. We're paying for these peoples' inability to get over their unreasonable hatred of Israel, and by extension, the United States.

How many times do we have to send our leaders over there to negotiate? How many Carter and Clintonian peace talks are necessary to change the mentality of folks whose only goal in life is to kill innocent Israelis and Americans?

In closing: yes we need to strengthen relationships in the Middle East. We need to encourage Arabs look inward for solutions. But we also have to take the upper hand in eliminating the people responsible for the violence and attacks. We need to have a clear vision of the problems at hand AND of the methods we will employ to solve the problems. As much as Bush has tried, he has failed here. Bush's opponents have also failed.

Diplomacy is great, and in an ideal world, that's all it would take. But we don't live in a perfect world, and we need to do everything we can to fight the enemy who want nothing less than the elimination of our way of life.

We need help, but after repeated attempts by several U.S. presidents to
broker deals with Middle East leaders, there comes a time when you stop trusting those people and start taking the bull by the horns. That is what I believe has happened after 9/11.

By the way, I think that this thread has shown that this issue can be intelligently debated when the focus is solely on the issues.

9:50 AM, October 14, 2006  

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