Democrats & Liberals Archives

Don't Open The Box

What’s the difference between success and failure?

That’s the question on many American’s minds, regarding Iraq. It’s an unanswered question, and one that’s costing those refusing to give that response dearly in the public’s regard. Given what it’s costing them, why is this question not getting answered? The key is, if Republicans fail, it costs them more. So why define failure?

If you don't answer the quesiton of what is failure and what is not, you can claim, with little regard to most outcomes, that you haven't lost, that your efforts are still moving forward.

This sort of situation resembles the plight of that most scientific of imaginary creatures, Schrodinger's Cat. Here's a cat shut up in a black box for an hour with an atom whose half-life (the period during which half of a given isotope decays) is also an hour. In the box is also a detector, which will notice this decay, and release a poison gas to kill the poor critter with should this happen. There's a even chance of both outcomes.

While in that box, is the cat dead or alive? We don't know. It's in what's called a superimposed state, at least as far as we're concerned. The thought experiment (no animals were injured or killed in the making of it) was meant to address a strange aspect of quantum physics, where the observer seemed to affect the outcome of the phenomena being observed. Physicists would talk about the probability wave of the system collapsing, two or more possible outcomes reduced to one by observation.

I would be remiss if I didn't caution that the connection here is metaphorical, but we poor ignorant creatures often end up not noticing whether things are working as we desire, because we simply don't have access to the information.

Bush started this war by feeding a declassified version of an NIE to Congress that was far more certain than it's classified counterpart. He then failed to tell people just how bad things were going, always chirpily congratulating America on a job well done. Mission Accomplished! Since then, he's kept Iraq in one box after another, setting many goals, failing most, and moving on without acknowledging the very real failures of the war.

Now, to keep his war, there's talk of forcing him to keep to benchmarks and other requirements. Yet he and the Republicans don't want them. Surprising? No. knowledge is power, and if the American people don't know anything, they can't use their power against them, can they? His political rivals can't point to real, measured failures, and they don't have to let their probability waves collapse to actual outcomes.

Here's the thing. Like Schrodinger's Cat, this war is either living or dead, regardless of whatever superimposition of outcomes we see at home. America needs to know, wants to know, whether this war is winnable. The President and his colleagues among the GOP don't want the American people to know. They want them to believe that one day, we will open the box, and the Iraq war will be alive. In the meantime, they're telling us, despite all the other negative outcomes we've seen, that we have to keep the box shut, because otherwise we will mess up that outcome. America doesn't want to take this on faith anymore, though. They want to know: is this war, much less the surge, doing what it was meant to do, or has it failed?

The Republicans have a good reason not to want the probability wave to collapse. Americans have long been smelling something from inside the box, and the Republicans have been giving them a load of excuses as to why the war isn't dead that would put the owner of the Parrot shop in Monty Python to shame. If they had to settle on definite benchmarks for success, publicly known and acknowledged, the very real possibility is that they would have to admit that the war wasn't being won. If they admitted that, there would be hell to pay.

So, they will do their best to deny Congress and the American people the ability to measure success in Iraq. They will continue to look at winning and losing in Iraq in the egotistical framework that defeat doesn't come until you admit it, instead of the practical viewpoint which would measure it by goals achieved and goals frustrated by the enemy. America will continue losing, and that smell will continue to waft from the box.

The time has come to get the war out of the box and give it a decent burial, before the stench gets so bad that our measures to remove it become hasty. To do that, though, this president would have to acknowledge the war is lost, or at least that we're not going to win it through his surge, or the previous "stay the course" strategy. We already asked Bush to acknowledge that, acknowledge it and the will of the people. What was our President's response yesterday?

Don't open the box.

My personal opinion? Let's take a crowbar to the sucker. Put in the benchmarks, put in the requirements for our troops to brought back to readiness. For once give Americans a clear way to tell what is succeeding and what is failing.

Let's open the box.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at May 2, 2007 7:31 PM
Comments
Comment #219136

BKZ’s easy punditry. Bush will sit on the box till January of ‘09. When it’s open and the cat is dead he’ll say “hey…it was alive and purring right along while I was the decider. Now look what you did!”

I’m writing to Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Bart Gordon to implore them to help Congress open the box now. It’s all I can do.

Posted by: bigkenzombie at May 2, 2007 9:27 PM
Comment #219137

Stephen, defining victory and defeat can be a very powerful and subtle exercise. I remember when this bully beat me up in grade school and took my lunch money. A few months later he disappeared from school and we learned he was in juvenile hall for stabbing some guy. I remember thinking how victorious I was not to have pursued the hateful and vengeful path he took toward me in response to his hitting me and taking my money.

I grew up a lot that day. I learned to not allow others to take advantage if that option is available. But, that those who succeed in taking advantage will become addicted to it, and bring down demise upon their own heads eventually, and victory in such cases is not allowing oneself to become like them.

In many ways, America has allowed herself to take on the attributes of Saddam Hussein in its fight against his regime and as an occupying force. We have killed innocents in Iraq, tortured humans there, and we strike fear into the hearts of the people as our primary weapon to get them to comply with our wishes.

There is no victory for America there if we allow ourselves to become like those we deemed evil in the first place. Such is the legacy of the Bush Administration, and in part, the American people who reelected him in 2004. Victory in Iraq cannot exist for us as an occupying force. If victory is to be had at all, it will come as an ally and provider of assistance to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi people and government.

Continuing to erect barrier walls against the will of the al-Maliki government has no victory within it, only shades of Saddam’s force to dictate.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2007 9:28 PM
Comment #219139

bigkenzombie, do something especially nice for yourself right after you contact them. You deserve it. If only 20 million other lethargic and apathetic Americans would do the same, we could begin to breathe life back into our democratic republic.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2007 9:35 PM
Comment #219142

I can’t do much here in Oregon,
Both of my congressmen (one D and the other R) voted for the time table in the suplimental war spending bill. That makes 1 of the 2 R’s to vote for a measurement of sucess.
This move by the R here may be to help preserve his job due to the split personality of this state. We are closely split D/R with a bunch of I’s willing to cross party lines and vote the other side if we think it is in our best interest.
So I have to just write here on watch blog and hope that someone in a heavily R or leaning R state gets the idea that we can not win if we don’t know what winning is.
Its like saying I will have $20 million dollars in 50 year at age 20. Then set no goals or benchmarks to see how you are progressing. At major milestones you should reacess your stated goal and see if it is what you really want.
When I was 18 my goal was to have a star on my sholder from the USAF. At 20 I realized that while I loved the USAF I didn’t want it to be my life. I wanted to have a family and provide my children with the one thing my parents provided for me. A home that doesn’t move every 3-4 years. I changed my goal to reflect my newfound desire.
What have we done to acess the situation in Iraq but “stay the course” or “support our troops (war)”?
Just a thought when did being an occupying force/nation building be defined as a war? Isn’t it just a police action now?

Posted by: timesend at May 2, 2007 9:51 PM
Comment #219147

timesend-
I think, to expand on what you’ve said, that some goals are so big that you have to break them up into intermediate size goals and efforts to get them done- and at that scale make sure things are working by good management and information-seeking practices, not to mention good personnel choices.

I think part of what makes Bush’s complaints about giving his generals the chance they need to win is that his generals can’t contradict him without risking being fired for insubordination. Even General McArthur’s career didn’t survive that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 2, 2007 10:20 PM
Comment #219155

timesend, thank you for that real world example of the new political paradigm in American politics increasingly controlled by Independent voters. I have been writing about this paradigm for years and most said I didn’t know what I was talking about. Now the hen is coming home to roost as predicted.

Independents are becoming powerful because they subscribe to voting out incumbents when their interests aren’t being served. This is how it always should have been under the duopoly parties, but, they rigged the game. Now their numbers are being overtaken by Independents and it is a paradigm shift in America that has immense consequences for the rest of this century, many not yet even glimpsed.

I personally subscribe to the hope and belief that Independents are actually going to save rescue this nation from the dooming future Republicans and Democrats have created by their inaction and inability to achieve consensus on the biggest challenges, climate change, spiraling health care costs, offensive foreign policy, energy dependence and population growth without rational control.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2007 10:49 PM
Comment #219168

David R. Remer-
The independents were much of what kept the Republicans in power, so don’t tell me that these people always come through to vote out incumbents.

No party could maintain a majority without these people, but that been true for quite some time. It’s no accident that a somewhat conservative peanut farmer gets made President in the Mid-70’s, that you see the rise of the so-called Reagan Democrats.

Being Independent does not mean being infallible, nor superior in judgment to those people who profess a party loyalty. That, as always, is an individual quality. Given that independents had to be brought in to help elect Bush and Keep the Republican Congress in the majority for so many years, I’d say they’re just as capable of making mistakes as the rest of us.

The Bush Administration has been, and should be a lesson to us all. I don’t like this notion that many in the third parties draw about the parties being just the same, because if nothing else should be obvious at this point, the parties are not the same. Though there are some similarities in certain policies, The Clinton Administration, Liberalism at its most restrained, took substantially different directions on all kinds of policies. From Global Warming, to the Bush Doctrine, to the indulgence of the Neocons, to the tax cuts, to the overspending, there are a litany of things that a Democratic President, especially one like Gore or Kerry would not have done had they been chief executive.

Truth is, not Democrats, nor Republicans, nor independents can save the country, if saving is what it needs. What can save us is a reorientation away from the politics of image and rhetoric, back towards a common sense of public service, of practical governance.

I think what the current situation illustrates is that this country can only get out of its current political nightmare if everybody wises up, and starts seeing their fellow Americans as more than White Hats and Black Hats.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 2, 2007 11:29 PM
Comment #219173

Stephen,

We Dems never had the power to do “jack-shit” in the Senate! (and little more in the house)

McConnell let this slide just to prove a political point. The point being that most American voters are stupid enough to believe that this bill means Democrats don’t support, er, ah , actually HATE the troops.

The political message is that we Dems hate our troops! Quite honestly, anyone that’s stupid enough to believe that is not worth my “cyber-breath”.

But Mike Gravel sounds pretty good on Colbert.

Posted by: KansasDem at May 2, 2007 11:49 PM
Comment #219174

“if everybody wises up, and starts seeing their fellow Americans as more than White Hats and Black Hats.”

Stephen Daugherty,

You must include, “my neighbor is not stealing from my paycheck”.

Posted by: KansasDem at May 2, 2007 11:58 PM
Comment #219175

KansasDem-
Actually, and sadly enough, we had just about the power in the Senate we do now, when the authorization was signed. We didn’t have the House, though, and we had the President, popular as he was, pushing the disarming of Saddam.

McConnell’s dead wrong. Most Americans want us to end the war, wanted us to push the legislation as it is now.

As for the political message, I think now is the best time to waste our breath. Rather than shrink back and grumble about being mischaracterized, let’s make this about the moral character about holding soldiers hostage to a failed policy

Meanwhile, A glimpse inside the box…

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 12:00 AM
Comment #219178

KansasDem-
Of course. We got to grow up here. One of the reasons this country is so fragile in terms of its infrastructure, its government, and its military is the refusal to admit that good government costs something, and that it takes sacrifice to get and keep the things that we want as a nation, as a people. We’re trying to have a tax revolt and a budget bonanza at the same time, and that just doesn’t work, especially if you’ve got people heedless cutting spending and raising it without much logical overview of the effects of all this.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 12:04 AM
Comment #219186

Stephen said: “The independents were much of what kept the Republicans in power, so don’t tell me that these people always come through to vote out incumbents.”

And they were absolutely essential in returning Democrats to power in the Congress, Stephen.

Democrat voters in America, about 35%. Republican voters in America about 32%. Independent voters in America, about 33%. They don’t call them the swing vote for nothing, Stephen. They are the new deciders in American politics, and the Republican and Democratic Parties are rapidly becoming their lackies. They have no choice, those swing voters are the ones each party must now answer to, in order to acquire power.

And its a beautiful thing to witness. If either party is capable of both retaining their base vote and appealing to the Independents, we have majority consensus again. It is all about the Independents from here on out. Fight it or accept it, it is the new paradigm. Democrats can fight it and lose sooner than later as the Republicans just did. Or they can embrace the new paradigm and restore the majority consensus democracy in our republic.

Its really up to you and other Democrats to decide to embrace it or, defer to Republicans for future elections because they are damned well fighting it out amongst themselves as I type, on how to recapture those Independents that kicked their asses out of the majority.

My point is made quite emphatically despite your protests which overdoeth! :-) Remember, the majority of Independents didn’t vote FOR Democrats, they voted AGAINST Republicans. It would be Republican arrogance for Democrats to assume the last election was otherwise given their abject lack of platform or policy course for the future to present to the voters.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 3, 2007 12:32 AM
Comment #219187

Bush just redefined success in Iraq again,

…the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives.

So, there we go. As soon as the level of violence in Baghdad drops to the level of… Los Angeles yesterday, I guess, we win.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 3, 2007 12:32 AM
Comment #219202

AP-
The definition he gives is so vague and confounded, he can practically go anywhere. He can stay as long as he wants, based on that last part, but based on that same part he can say we can go now.

Real Benchmarks rely not on vague pronouncements as to what are tolerable levels of violence, but rather on the structures in place, and the ability of the Iraqi government to take control and keep control of its society.

David R. Remer-
I think the important part is that they voted for Democrats in order to vote against Republicans, rather than simply handing the vote to some third party like the Greens or the Libertarians. Moreover, polls seem to indicate that the people want us to take our direction. Congress’s ratings are up. Nancy Pelosi’s are over 50%. Support for our policies are there. Our political rivals would like to believe we were simply the default choice, but I think there is a shift in thinking, in the nation’s perception of the right that is fueling this.

As for Platforms? What do we need that for? Is it any mystery where we stood on most issues, where we needed to stand? Iraq, Katrina, Corruption, and Deficit, to name a few problems in capital letters, practically handed us a platform ready-made, one we had no need to trumpet. Hell, you could reduce it to one sentence: “We’re against further f***-ups by this president and his party.” Appealing enough, don’t you think?

Swing voters being crucial is nothing new. After all, it’s been nearly thirty years since the term Reagan Democrat took on meaning. What’s changed is the Reagan Democrats and Clinton Republicans finally got sick of Republican government. It is a beautiful thing to witness, because if you really look at what the polls and other measures of public opinion yield, the Republican party in its core was far to the right of most people. America’s return to center was a wonder to behold.

I don’t think anybody’s becoming anybody’s lacky. I just think America’s reached a new compromise with itself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 7:50 AM
Comment #219206

A question worth asking: How many more American troops must die to protect what little is left of Dubya’s so-called legacy? “Success” for him is passing on the ending of the war to the next president. “Failure” for him is having the war end before noon, 1/20/09. A second question worth asking: Why did Dubya veto a spending bill that supported the troops? He received far more money than for what he asked. More importantly, he needs to be asked directly: Why did you, Mr. President, veto the spending for the troops? Don’t you support the troops? Unfortunately, the answer is pretty obvious: He does not support, has not supported, the troops. He’s concerned for his political self and, has used and uses the troops to his political advantage.

This is not to argue for an immediate, full redeployment of American troops. Rather, it is to argue that we should be engaged in only those tasks in which we can actually be successful: breaking up the post-invasion residency of Al Qaeda in Iraq. In other words, use American military might where it can (1) be effective and (2) serve legitimate American national security interests.

However, it should be noted that over the past couple days the Iraqi’s have demonstrated an ability to address Al Qaeda in Iraq. Hence, there does seem to be a task in which we and the Iraqi’s can cooperatively pursue. The Iraqi’s have no love affair with Al Qaeda before and after our invasion. It is tragic that we gave Al Qaeda a fertile environment in which to breed that was otherwise barren.

Unfortunately, the bigger problem in Iraq is the sectarian civil war between Iraqi’s about which we can do nothing other than needlessly sacrifice the lives and limbs of American troops. Each additional day we interfere in this sectarian civil war, we confirm the suspicions of many Muslims everywhere that we are nothing more than Christian crusaders dedicated to the the destruction of Islam. Sadly, Muslims hear Dubya’s (and other GOP politician’s) hyper-religious rhetoric as prima facie evidence thereto. As evil as Saddam was, he at least understood the fundamental principal of non-sectarian politics both locally and internationally.

Posted by: Allen at May 3, 2007 10:40 AM
Comment #219211

This letter to the POTUS from General Eaton is a must read:

http://www.votevets.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=249&Itemid=16

Posted by: KansasDem at May 3, 2007 11:51 AM
Comment #219213

The available gene pool in Iraq will slowly weed out the violence. Nature will eventually do what we can’t. To quote the American classic Jurassic Park - “Life finds a way”.

So given enough time, the Bush strategy will work.

Posted by: Schwamp at May 3, 2007 12:00 PM
Comment #219215

Stephen,
Just thought the left side might like a little information regarding our success in the war on terror. Perhaps we could define success as getting other previously terrorist-sympathizing nations to come over on our side. Do you think that any of the responses below from our Arab friends would have happened had it not been for the aggressive military and diplomatic relations initiated by G.W. Bush and Condi Rice?

Notice- NONE of the below came from FOX News!

YEMEN
“Yemen is one of the world’s poorest countries, with dwindling oil reserves.
It has been cracking down on suspected al-Qaida members since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, a campaign it has conducted with the help of Washington.”
(Al Jazeera News, 2005)

“Eight foreigners with alleged links to al-Qaeda have been arrested in Yemen on suspicion of trying to smuggle weapons to Somalia, the interior ministry says. Last month, Yemen claimed that it had broken up an al-Qaeda-linked cell that was behind foiled attacks on oil and gas installations.”
(Al Jazeera News, November 2006)

“Yemen, a poor, tribal country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden, but has been an active participant in the U.S.-led war on terrorism since the September 11 attacks.
The Shiite rebel leader, (al-Hawthi) denied allegations by the Yemeni and Saudi governments that his group, known as the Young Faithful Believers, has received funds from predominantly Shiite Iran. “It (the government) is the one that is loyal to America, and the one that is mobilizing, attacking, destroying and slaying its own people, and shedding their blood for the sake of satisfying America,” al-Hawthi said.
Several local Saada officials and a doctor in the region, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said 1,500 government troops and 2,000 rebels had been killed in the fighting since the beginning of the year. They also said 2,800 soldiers had been wounded.”
(Associated Press, 2007)

SAUDI ARABIA
“Security forces have arrested 41 suspects in a series of raids around Saudi Arabia, since the killing of al-Qaida’s top leader in the country less than 10 days ago, a security source said. Australia, Britain, Canada and Germany also issued alerts about serious threats against their nationals in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi security forces have launched a relentless crackdown on al-Qaida suspects since the wave of unrest began more than two years ago.”
(Al Jazeera News, August 2005)

“Six alleged members of the al-Qaeda network and one police officer were killed early on Friday in a shootout in a residential area of Riyadh. The term “deviant minority” is used in Saudi official language to designate the local branch of al-Qaeda, responsible for a wave of violence in the kingdom since May 2003. Police could be seen taking cardboard boxes stuffed with documents and computer equipment out of the villa after the operation, an AFP correspondent said.
Saudi King Abdullah pledged in April to annihilate al-Qaeda-linked militants in the kingdom.
(Al Jazeera News, June 2006)

“Saudi Arabia has been battling a growing insurgency against the monarchy and elements suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda who have carried out a series of bombings and shootings for more than three years.”
(Al Jazeera News, August 2006)

“Saudi Arabia has said it is pushing ahead with plans to build a 900km fence along its border with Iraq in an attempt to improve security. Brigadier-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for Iraq’s interior ministry, said officials had heard of the plans to improve border security and added “we thanked them for it”.
“If the Saudis want to build border defences to stop the infiltration of terrorists, they can do that to protect their borders,” he said.” US officials said last April that Saudis were among the top five nationalities among foreign fighters captured by US-led forces in Iraq.”
(Al Jazeera News, Sept. 2006)

“Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington has warned against a hasty US pullout from Iraq and said that dividing the country along ethnic lines would unleash massive ethnic cleansing.”
(Al Jazeera News, November 2006)

PAKISTAN
“American and Pakistani intelligence agents are exploiting a growing rift between Arab members of al-Qaida and their Central Asian allies, a fissure that’s tearing at the network of Islamic extremists as militants compete for scarce hideouts, weapons and financial resources, counterterrorism officials say.”
(MSNBC, May 2005)

ALGERIA
“Iraq’s most feared terror group said Wednesday it killed two kidnapped Algerian diplomats because of Algeria’s ties to the United States and its crackdown on Islamic extremists, reported Associated Press. Algeria opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, although it has in recent years become a close U.S. ally, particularly in investigating and arresting Islamic extremists. Al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, linked the killing of the diplomats to the Algerian crackdown.”
(Associated Press, July 2005)

“Algiers, 6 Feb. (AKI) - Algerian security officials have said they will not only hunt down militants hiding in the country’s mountainous areas but also funding and money laundering activities of the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat, the only Islamist terror group to have remained active in the country. Algerian national security chief Ali al-Tunisi told London-based Arabic daily al-Zaman that the police are training 50 officials who will work to track down funding for GSPC, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. The insurgency is now mainly conducted by the GSPC with an estimated 500 militants, significantly less than in the 1990s when some 30,000 insurgents operated in the country. Militant strongholds are located in Algeria’s mountains and parts of the southern desert and GSPC revenues mainly stem from drug trafficking, kidnappings and extortion.”
(London-based Arabic Daily Al Zaman, Feb. 2007)

“If the Americans Left Iraq Tonight, and the Jews Fled Palestine, and Extremist Governments were Established… This Would Not Satisfy Them. To make the picture clearer… This religious war has nothing to do even with the major issues, slogans [related to which] are raised in the terrorists’ literature itself, like Palestine, Iraq, the U.S., etc. These are people who want martyrdom, that is, they want [to fight] war, anywhere in the world, and for any cause that has a religious angle. They want to go quickly to Paradise.”
(Editorial in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 15, 2007)

“Today, the entire world has understood that Algeria, beyond [the fight on] its own territory, is waging a battle of universal dimensions against a poison that has no borders: Islamist terrorism.”
(Liberte (Algeria), April 14, 2007)

This so-called increase in terrorism and terrorist numbers (habitually repeated by the Democrats) seem to fly in the face with some of these Arab News reports. Perhaps the Arabs know something our Press doesn’t, or just doesn’t want to tell. Seems to me any increase in terrorist attacks are on the governments of those Arab nations who are now supporting us. I ask is this a bad thing? Al qaida and other terrorist groups are losing support drastically in the Arab leadership world. They are in a war to topple those governments that assist the U.S.! Pulling out of Iraq would signal to the the Algerian government, the Saudis, the Yemenis, and Pakistanis that the U.S. has no intention of supporting them if they should need help in fending off attacks on our allies. The U.S. can not afford to take the impotent, quitter’s, turn your back approach on this war.

JD

Posted by: JD at May 3, 2007 12:06 PM
Comment #219222

JD-
First, lets analyze the situation. Yemen remains a terrorist haven. I’ll give the Bush Administration credit for what it’s done, but terrorism has not been eliminated there. It remains a hub not only for al-Qaeda, but a place where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are recognized as legal organizations.

Saudi Arabia was and is pretty schizophrenic on the matter. It’s formal opposition to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda is nothing new, as Bin Laden’s criticism and sedition against the Saudi Royals got him kicked out. The Saudis are still a source of much of the terrorist funding, and Bush has either been unable or unwilling to get them to stop. The nation happens to be one of the big sources of funding for Sunni extremists and insurgents in Iraq, which in fact constitutes the worst of the insurgency in Iraq. Part of the mess there is the Saudi’s own doing.

Saudi Arabia remains a hotbed of Islamic extremism, which the royals there can’t really stamp out effectively, given that their mandate to rule comes from the clerics. Not all the clerics are extremists, but enough are to make any such purge problematic.

Pakistan? I’ve got four words that indicate the limits of their cooperation: Where’s Bin Laden hiding? Pakistan, as some would say, is one assassination away from becoming an Islamist nuclear state.

Algerias made some progress, but much of that owes to the military government’s suppression of the Islamists in their country.

I don’t mind what progress we’ve made and what diplomatic efforts the Bush administration has done to get the terrorists. I’ve never been against a broad based counterterrorism effort against al-Qaeda and similar groups. To me, that was what the war on terror was supposed to be, for the most part.

The articles you presented do not preclude an increase in terrorist numbers. the latest NIE on Iraq concludes that terrorist numbers are up. It’s not what you think of as the liberal media making these things up.

I think many of the Arab leaders in that part of the world would probably find full cooperation with us easier if we weren’t stuck in Iraq. Among Arabs, the war is a great point of contention, and as the NIE concludes, a valuable tool to the Islamic Terrorists to recruit with. If that involvement was a thing of the past, it would take the immediacy from such efforts.

Our support of governments that oppose terrorism would not go away, and that would send its own signal concerning our policy to anybody who see our withdrawal from Iraq and become concerned.

You talk about taking the quitter’s way out, but the truth is, it’s no longer our game. It’s theirs, and as long as each side can use us as the ringer, as the excuse for their own failings in playing the game, there is no hope for peace in Iraq.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 1:33 PM
Comment #219223

Schwamp,

So, you think the President should combat Islamic terrorism with “evolution”. Interesting idea, but if you believe in evolution, you also must believe that it was the need to survive and live free that caused the Jurassic age to evolve. I think the President is doing a pretty good job of helping the Arab world to understand that!

JD

Posted by: JD at May 3, 2007 1:34 PM
Comment #219225

Schwamp-
The society that evolves in Iraq will not be kinder and gentler Not everybody committing violence is dying by it. Not everybody who’s committing themselves to peaces is avoiding the violence. Whether things in Iraq change people in the direction of yearning for peace, or itching for a fight is an open question, and one that doesn’t always have a happy answer.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 1:45 PM
Comment #219230

Stephen,

I figured you would belittle the President’s diplomatic successes toward these countries. Funny, the Democrats seem to proclaim their great gift of diplomacy, but have little to fall back on in the 90’s. The articles speak for themselves. These are not from some right wing think tank out there. These nations are taking the same hits we are. Algeria has lost almost as many troops as we have combating terror. But, their people don’t seem to be demanding their government to give up to the enemy. Quite the opposite. G.W. Bush has pushed the issue of freedom from terrorist oppression, and continues to push the issue. Fighting the war on terror and spreading democracy should be the number one priority of the U.S. in this age of al Qaida’s Islamic global war. You’ll have to explain how abandoning our allies in need will help spread democracy in the Middle East. You’ll have to explain how an American defeat by al Qaida will help our cause, and reassure the people of Algeria, Yemen, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia of victory over terror. You say terrorists are still in those countries. You better believe they are. I guess you expect them to just disappear after we leave, right? At least with us leading the charge in this war on terror, it is keeping attention to its need. Terrorists are “no longer” getting a free pass in these countries, as these efforts by the governments show. This is why we still must be aggressive in the war. All the Democrats give us hope for is defeat.

JD

Posted by: JD at May 3, 2007 2:03 PM
Comment #219243

JD,

What Stephen Daugherty said!


Stephen Daugherty, thanks so much for saving me the time of having to respond to comment #219215.

I don’t catch every press conference that is broadcast so let me know if I am in error. It is seems to me the reaseon these questions don’t get answered is because NO ONE asks them in the first place. Even so, the “president” will do what he as always done…go to his propaganda playbook and take out some crap that the public hasn’t heard in awhile. There are still a minority of individuals (as evidenced by some of the posts in this forum) that believe whatever bull*#@!! George W. Bush tells them no matter how wrong or illogical it may be.

The only thing that is moving forward in Iraq is the death toll and morbidity on our military personnel.

I don’t see any way out for US troops, except to wait out the end of this 8-year long nightmare. To continue to debate the issue that Bush’s Iraq war was a “mistake” or “that the war is lost” is so trite and such an understatement, and to continue to discuss the politics surrounding this terrorist act on the part of an American “president” is futile. The power to continue to put our troops in harms way needs to be taken from GWB and Cheney. If the American people and Congress cannot accomplish it in the near future, the only recourse is wait for the Constitution to do it. It’s a tragedy beyond all horrors that hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers are going to lose their lives as we sit and wait for the Constitution to take effect.

Posted by: Kim-Sue at May 3, 2007 3:52 PM
Comment #219267

JD-
With all your talk about spreading Democracy, would you care to tell me what systems of government all these countries are living under? Saudi Arabia is a monarchy. Algeria and Pakistan exist under the control of their military. Even Yemen’s government, though technically a Democratic Republic, lives under the near total rule of one party, without fair elections.

Still, I don’t begrudge Bush the diplomacy he’s done. I’ve advocated working through the governments of these countries to help make life difficult for our friends in al-Qaeda. Send them a house warming gift of a few squads of police from the local gendarmerie.

I don’t mind what we did with Qaddafi, I mind that Bush tried to pass it off it being the Iraq war scaring Qaddafi into cooperating. Give me the truth. I’m not a baby. If you’re going to impress me, do something real to impress me, don’t tell me fairytales.

Bush and his supporters have not produced results in this war. The other side, though, has, and this has emboldened them, as all victories embolden an enemy. Now this victory didn’t come because of dissent at home, nor because of discouragement by our soldiers. It came because we simply did not have the strategy or the manpower to securre the country. This allowed al-Qaeda entry into Iraq. This allowed them to sow chaos in the cities. This allowed them to meet their goal while we failed to meet ours. Their goal was to provoke sectarian chaos, and that they succeeded in.

Don’t mistake me here. I think we could have gotten control of the situation then, if we acted immediately. Unfortunately, Bush had to stay the course. Funny thing. Not only did stay the course mean not lowering troop levels, it also meant not strengthening them. Bush’s own actions after election give lie to the notion that we didn’t need more soldiers then. We did. The President, though, didn’t want to give any sign of political weakness. He chose the battle he wanted to win the most, and it wasn’t in Iraq.

Bush is unwilling, it seems, to do anymore than he’s doing right now. What he’s doing right now, is not only unpopular with the people of America, it’s also insufficient. Bush, by taking this route is not shortening the war by one day, not bringing victory.

I never wanted to lose this war. Faced with Bush’s stubborn refusal to do what’s necessary to win, though, I can’t say that we have an alternative. We are well past the point where someone could come along to replace Bush’s incompetence, and bring us victory that way. So we lose. I would rather us lose moderately, and with some measure of dignity, than crash and burn. I want us to have some control over how this war ends, not go out in some additionaly, embarrassing display of failed policy.

What drove me to start writing here on Watchblog was this war, and that sick sinking feeling I got looking at all the facts, that this president had us on a course for failure. You can look back through my archives and see for a fact what I believed, what I advocated. I was telling Bush to get troops back into Fallujah and Najaf, and take those cities back immediately. He waited. I was telling Bush not to hold elections until the violence was at an end. I was telling him to get the soldiers into Iraq to handle the people there, when it could have done us some good.

My position was to reform the war and repair the damage done by the strategical mistake. I am angry that we have failed to get Iraq under control. I would push for reform, if I thought at this point it could do any good. Without Iraqi political support, though, without the willingness of the Sunnis to make peace with the Shia, there is not a damn thing we could at this point, with Bush’s self-imposed limitations.

What Bush is doing now is waiting out the clock on his administration. Unfortunately, to save face, he’s killing a hundred soldiers a month on a war he’s unwilling to win. That, in my book is far more cowardly that a forthright acknowledgment of what’s going on.

As for the terrorists? Here’s what we do: we will get hit one day. There is no perfect defense. We can, however, retaliate mercilessly against any terrorist group that cares to do that. If we do that smartly enough, we can discourage folks from following us home. We can also build our society resilient enough in its infrastructure that we can spring back and deprive the terrorists of the satisfaction of doing lasting damage.

The hope I think my party can give is that we can still triumph over our enemies abroad, without having to become the amoral, reckless fools this administration have been. That we can stand up straight and look our enemies in the eye as better human beings and fighters.

If you want to stay imprisoned in that quagmire in Iraq out of a fear of the terrorists, so be it. I’d like to think we can recover from our mistakes, that we can admit to them without seeing the end of our civilization.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 3, 2007 8:57 PM
Comment #219496

Stephen,

The point is we can not deal with this problem the way the previous administration did, and the way the Democrats have continuously dealt with the looming Social Security problems: just do nothing, sit back, and it won’t fester or grow.

Bush has from the very beginning showed that he was not afraid to tackle the issues that required immediate attention. Terrorism, Medicare, Social Security, Iraq, were all such problems when he entered into office. He has taken the initiative to do something about those dire problems facing the American people with some highly recommended ideas, only to hit a wall with the Democratic Party on every single issue. What has the Democratic Party given us in the last eight years that the American people could be proud of as any kind of leadership at all? Don’t think that being in the minority exempts one’s leadership capacity. They are elected to lead as well. The Democrats have given no ideas for fixing these problems that plagued America throughout the Clinton Administration. The only thing Democrats know how to do is oppose Republicans. They do not work to fix anything. If the Bush Administration proves to fail in the Iraq endeavor and this war on terror, (if we lose Iraq, we’ve lost the war on terror), it will be because Democrats set up a wall much like they did with fixing Medicare and Social Security. Democrats have no ideas and can not lead. They only obstruct!!!
At least Bush is trying to transform the Middle East and bring attention to the threat of terrorism not only to America, but also its allies including those in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and others mentioned above who are targets of the Islamic terrorists just like us.
Why will PBS not show the new documentary which describes the hatred of these Islamic Extremists toward Muslims that support western culture? Why are the “Muslim terrorist attacks on peaceful moderate Muslims” something that must be hidden from the public’s view? Why isn’t the left concerned with Muslims dying at the hands of “hate-filled Muslims”? Could it be to keep Americans from knowing what the Bush Administration knows sbout the terrorist agenda to overthrow any peaceful ally of the U.S. in the Middle East and elsewhere, and further the President’s vision of peace in the Middle East?
Had the Americans responded to 9/11 by attacking all Muslims in the U.S., the Democrats would have immediately wanted to include Muslims in new hate crime bills across the country to try to win votes. Well, terrorists did respond to 9/11 by trying to attack and kill any Muslims that alligned themselves with the U.S. after the WTC crumbled to the ground. If Democrats are successful in convincing the American people that the overthrow of Middle Eastern regimes who support the U.S. is not our problem, and that 9/11 was just a blip on our radar screen, then we have lost the war on terror. Building a strong anti-terror force in Iraq and throughout the Middle East region is essential to our success in this war. That is also why getting these nations to put pressure on Iran and Syria is essential to peace in this region as well. Meaningless talks with Iran and Syria by Democratic wannabes behind the President’s back will not accomplish anything. But, a coalition between the U.S and five or six other unified forces in the region sure will! As they see more and more that Iran and Syria are the ones promoting hatred and diminishing the prospect of peace in Iraq and the Middle East, there is a greater chance of these nations stepping in and putting pressure on these countries, especially when the terrorists keep attacking Algeria, Yemen, Ssudi Arabia, and others for helping in our cause. It seems the only time the Democratic Party is for protecting anyone is when it doesn’t cost anything, and can gain them votes.

JD

Posted by: JD at May 5, 2007 12:28 PM
Comment #219533

JD-
He dealt with Medicare by making it worse, piling on a new drug benefit program that is considered ill-conceived even by you and yours. Additionally, his solution on Social Security, by his own admission did nothing to improve solvency. His solution to the war on terror? Fight an expensive war, open up a whole new country to our enemy, and then sit back and make the numbers of Terrorist grow worldwide. The NIE confirms that this has occured, and unlike what you would believe, is not merely the figment of the press’s imagination.

Doing something stupid to deal with problems is worse than doing nothing at all.

As for a wall of criticisms? That’s funny.

Don’t do that Mister Bush, or we’ll level Criticisms at you! You can’t praise Bush as a stalwart in the face of criticism, and a wilting wallflower crushed beneath it at the same time an offer that as a credible argument.

His problem is that the criticisms were true.

People care about the Iraqis. People care about what happens with the terrorists. They don’t share your opinion about what what to do with both groups, and that is why you ignore their concerns.

Where was your concern for the actions of Muslim fanatics when Clinton was lobbing cruise missiles at Bin Laden. Oh no, he’s wagging the dog! That’s what your side said. It was all just an elaborate ruse meant to downplay his affair with Monica. That is what your people thought of the war on terrorism before it came to your doorstep on your watch.

The Republicans want to believe that they discovered and pushed this issue before anybody else. That’s not the least bit true. We were on this when your party was still busy examining dresses. There wasn’t any real push in those days, though, to invade Afghanistan and destroy them. In retrospect this was wrong, but we didn’t have the tragedy of 9/11 to compel us then, especially not the Republicans, who believed, and in fact still believe that rogue states are the greater danger. For all your talk of fighting terrorists in those countries, why the focus on the Axis of evil, none of whom related to al-Qaeda? Only Iran was known for substantial support of international terrorism, and you chose Iraq instead.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 5, 2007 7:39 PM
Comment #219724

Stephen,

You said, “Where was your concern for the actions of Muslim fanatics when Clinton was lobbing cruise missiles at Bin Laden. Oh no, he’s wagging the dog! That’s what your side said. It was all just an elaborate ruse meant to downplay his affair with Monica. That is what your people thought of the war on terrorism before it came to your doorstep on your watch.”

You’re mostly right. Terrorism at that point in time was not a huge concern. I (and I bet you) went to domestic nut jobs in our heads the day the towers came down before we went to Muslim extremists. Even after the first trade center bombing and the attack on the ship in Yemen, I still went to Oklahoma City first as the closest paralell.

Most of us went there because we weren’t led through WTC 1 and Yemen to internalize that danger. Even though Clinton took action against Al Qaeda doesn’t mean he did enough or the right things. We thought wag the dog because we were offered nothing else to think. There was no credible leadership from the WH at that point in time. Being right is only half the equation for the WH, you have to also convince the nation that you are right.

That dress as much as Democrats hate to admit it, compromised his effectiveness as President. It denied his ability to complete the equations on any number of issues; none more importnant that terrorism.

Bush gets no pass for me on this, but neither does Clinton. Neither of them got all of the equation right. Neither of them did all of the right things nor did they convince all/ most of the nation that they were the right things to do. The biggest failures came under Bush for sure. I’m not apologizing. But please don’t trot out Clinton as having done “more better” than Bush; he did a lot less, better in some cases, and about the same in others. End result, Clinton was better, because he made fewer mistakes, but what difference does it make if neither was good?

We need to stop the wrangling over who is right and who is wrong. Instead, it needs to be about what is right and what is wrong. As a reasonable Republican, you can count me for one as having been convinced in this case that we have not been right on Iraq, and have some room for improvement on terrorism. But please, do not try to convince me that Clinton had this problem licked. There were so many miles to go between Jan 2001 and Sept that I doubt he would have made it either. Do you really believe he would have?

Posted by: Rob at May 7, 2007 2:09 PM
Comment #219738

Rob,

To most Democrats terrorism is still not much of a concern. They act as if nothing changed after 9/11. They act as if it is Bush that increased the hatred for America, and not the success of the WTC attack with its superstructure crumbling to the ground. That success had nothing to do with the growth of Al Qaida, and the increased attacks on Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, etc.! That is simply in answer to Bush’s invasion of a Saddam led peace-loving and completely innocent radical Islamic Iraq. And this talk of failure and “the war is lost” has nothing to do with new invigorated attacks on our military in Iraq, either. They forget the cheering throughout the Middle East by fanatic Muslims that said on national TV that America got what it deserved after 9/11. None of that happened in their minds. No, it all went south when Bush invaded Iraq. That’s when they really started hating us.
You see, these people only need to be understood. They don’t really have any intention of harming the U.S. or its national interests (helpful allied Islamic regimes and democracies). That’s all right wing hate rhetoric toward the Muslim world. These people just would not hate us if we only had a Democratic President that would bring our troops home. Why, if we weren’t there they would probably embrace those allied moderate Muslims that want peace and goodwill toward the U.S., and they would be able to peacefully work out their differences. Bush just doesn’t understand the Islamic people.

JD

Posted by: JD at May 7, 2007 5:25 PM
Comment #220070

Rob-
People said “wag the dog” because that was the way to take the wind out of Clinton’s military sails. I have no doubt they believed they were doing what was best for the country, but the whole Lewinsky thing was an unnecessary distraction.

Clinton made counterterrorism a high priority in his foreign policy. Bush downgraded it. Clinton responded promptly to al-Qaeda when it hit us, Bush, when he got the word on who hit the Cole, did nothing. The first meeting anybody had on terrorism in his adminstration occured was a week before 9/11.

My main complaint is that the Republicans have let politics get in the way of practical thinking on this matter, before and after 9/11. They won’t admit that the Democrats are just as committed to defense as the Republicans are. They want to be the defenders, the tough cookies that protect all the weaker folk, the Liberals and Democrats, as they would have it.

We were the ones, though, who had to deal with this threat as it emerged. We’re the ones who had to figure this out. 9/11 did not have to happen, and while I don’t blame Bush entirely for it, I do think that if you don’t try, you won’t succeed, and Bush didn’t try.

JD-
I think if Rob wanted to know what Democrats really think, I’d be the better person to ask. I certainly wouldn’t tell him that it’s a minor matter. I would have the benefit of not misleading him like his fellow Republicans have into a strategy that focuses primarily on rogue nations, the same one your people were following when they lambasted Clinton.

Bush has increased the hatred. He invaded their heartland, and then when he had it under his control, he let it fall into chaos. Unfortunately, Bush must not be criticized or second-guessed in any way shape or form, correct? So Bush can’t have increased the hatred, because he’s been right all along. The evidence just hasn’t come around to supporting him. Just wait. Just wait.

On second thought, Bush can and should be criticized for his mismanagement of the war. The insurgency was not inevitable. al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq was that way too. Iraq was not a a center of radical Islam before this. In fact, it was one of the more secular countries in the Middle East.

That’s one example among many of the ways in which the Republicans misunderstand the way the Middle East works. No doubt we have enemies, but they’re not made from cookie cutters. They have different levels of religious devoutness, different levels of willingness to resort to violence, different philosophies of government, even distinct and mutually unintelligible dialects of Arabic! One of the big divides between Iran and Iraq is that Iran speaks Persian, while Iraq does Arabic.

But hey, irrelevant details. They’re all one enemy, right? They’re all unredeemable, and we just need to dedicate ourselves to a WWII style campaign to take over the region and remake it in our image, correct?

Never mind defending the homeland from terrorist activity, improving security and doing some good planning in regards to mitigating that threat. We have every one of them tied up in Iraq, right? It’s not like just 19 of them could kill thousands and cost us billions of dollars.

The Republicans would like to believe they are tough on terrorism, but the truth is, they are ineffective at fighting it. They confuse a stubborn violence against the enemy with strategic success. They alienate millions who they might have recruited to confront and isolate our enemies.

You’re right. Bush doesn’t understand them. But that’s not a touchy feely problem. It’s a problem of being short of allies and unable to figure out the best way to confront each enemy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 11, 2007 9:07 AM
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