Jay Reding.com

Four Options

Author Dan Simmons has one of the smartest pieces on the current situation in Iraq I’ve seen in some time. He looks at the options the United States — outright surrender, “outsourcing” the war to private contractors, giving Iraq over to the Iranians, and actually fighting this war. By the time he gets to the last one, it’s clear why its the preferable alternative.

He outlines four things that need to happen before we can win in Iraq:

An American president has to be elected who can reunite the country, acknowledge the mistakes and blunders of our adventure in Iraq to this point, and who can forge a new consensus of American policy and actions there that can be supported by a majority of the American people and by the majority of our traditional allies in Europe and the Mideast.

Here’s where the Democrats could have a chance. Is there such a Democrat out there? Short of Senator Lieberman, no. (Had Hillary Clinton stuck to her guns, she might have come close.) The Democrats have hitched their wagons to failure, and that’s why they’ve abrogated their responsibilities to the war. The Republicans, on the other hand, are trying to get out from under the collapse of the Bush presidency, which has now become an irrelevancy as well as an albatross around the neck of every Republican.

Could Rudy Giuliani pull this off? Fred Thompson? Mitt Romney? John McCain? I’m not sure yet, but it needs to happen.

The current use of Iraq to promote short-term partisan, political goals has to stop. This is deadly serious business and members of both political parties have to begin behaving – if not like statesmen — then at least as grown-ups who put America’s interests above their parties’ immediate interests and gains.

Both parties need to grow the f*ck up. On that, there’s no doubt. The choices we make now will decide what the future of our world will look like, and right now it’s looking like the next generation will be raising their kids under the specter of an Iranian empire with nuclear weapons. We need a responsible political class to deal forthrightly with the challenges we face.

Our political and chattering classes are the weakpoint of our society — and al-Qaeda is expertly using that weakness against us. Until we have a political class more interested in winning the war than in bashing the heads of the opposition in, we will lose regarldess of who wins in Washington.

The American people themselves have to start educating themselves on Iraq and the larger war-on-terrorism issues. To do this, they’ll have to get smarter fast. One way is to quit getting one’s news from Leno and Letterman and Bill Maher and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There should be a wide, serious, and sustained dialogue among Americans on Iraq and visions of the post-Iraq world and this dialogue must go beyond politics and polls. All informed opinion should be welcomed. We are past the point where the constant deluge of uninformed opinion can be tolerated.

That is absolutely right. The American people are profoundly ignorant on Iraq, and get their information from a news media that’s not only ignorant, but stridently ignorant.

As 5 random people on the street to point to Baghdad on a map, tell why Sunnis and Shi’ites are different, or name the Prime Minister of Iraq and you’re almost certain to get 5 people with blank stares. For all the talk about “intelligence failures” the biggest one is the one here at home — people aren’t making informed opinions, they’re being blindly loyal to one side or the other. (See the blockquote above.)

Iraq is not “Bush’s” war, it’s not some abstraction, it is something that effects each and every one of us, and given that the American public remains ignorant and the American media is unwilling to give them the information needed to form a rational opinion without bias and filtering, the situation isn’t getting any better.

Thank heavens that the blogosphere exists as a source of in-depth analysis, but blogging still can’t make up for a media that’s more willing to cover the foibles of celebrities like Paris Hilton than how Iran is killing American troops.

The U.S. military has learned much in Iraq. The troops who have fought there have shown not just amazing courage and incredible professionalism, but the ability to learn quickly so as to survive. U.S. soldiers, Marines, and reservists returning for their third, fourth, and fifth tours in Iraq are much wiser than the troops who went their as “liberators” in 2003 and who could not understand why people there were trying to kill them, much less how to beat them. Now it’s time for the American political establishment and the American people to learn from Iraq. The first lesson is obvious – humility. Humility in our strategic goals, humility in our assessment of our place in the world, humility in our approach to other nations in Europe, the Mideast, and elsewhere, and humility in our national and personal understanding of the limits of power.

There is a lesson in there. The Bush Administration pursued the right course after the September 11 attacks. The United States is threatened by the confluence of terror-sponsoring states and weapons of mass destruction. The Hussein regime was in flagrant violation of the cease-fire agreement and the removal of that regime was the right choice.

At the same time, the Bush Administration took a bull-in-the-china-shop approach. The failures of public diplomacy and political communication from the Administration are legion. The Bush Administration squandered their political capital by failing to keep every party on the same page. The President’s rhetoric is right, but the follow-through is lacking. President Bush, who led so well in the early years of this war, has failed to lead so many times in the last few years that he’s destroyed his own legacy. Even when he’s right, he’s too compromised to make much of it.

We cannot afford to lose this war, and we can prevail in it — but only if we have a political class that puts country before party, a media that puts the truth above ideology, and a populace that puts the real world over the fantasy world of Hollywood. If we fail, the temptation will be to blame it all on the Iraqis (which is already happening). But make no mistake, if we fail in Iraq, it won’t be because the Iraqis failed, or the President failed, or the Democrats failed, it will be because we all failed, and we will reap the bloody harvest of that failure for decades to come.

17 responses to “Four Options”

  1. Mark says:

    “Here’s where the Democrats could have a chance. Is there such a Democrat out there? Short of Senator Lieberman, no.”

    So the only Democrat who can “reunite the country” is the Democrat who is among the 27% of Americans who believe we need to stay the course in Iraq? Come again?

    Will you ever realize it’s not 2003 anymore?

    “That is absolutely right. The American people are profoundly ignorant on Iraq, and get their information from a news media that’s not only ignorant, but stridently ignorant.”

    Oh yes. More people need to get their news from partisan internet blogs like JayReding.com–Conservatism with Attitude. Only then will people get “the full picture” about what’s going on in Iraq….and that of course is that “victory is right around the corner”.

    “As 5 random people on the street to point to Baghdad on a map, tell why Sunnis and Shi’ites are different, or name the Prime Minister of Iraq and you’re almost certain to get 5 people with blank stares.”

    I know the feeling. Ask five random neocons in Washington to point to Iraqi WMD hotspots on a map and you’ll get met with five blank stares as well.

    “Thank heavens that the blogosphere exists as a source of in-depth analysis”

    You’re right. What would we do without Daily Kos?

    “The Bush Administration pursued the right course after the September 11 attacks.”

    Here’s your biggest problem. Even people too dumb to identify Baghdad on a map are gonna read something as delusional as what you wrote above and identify you as a partisan nut unwilling to admit error even when the blood of tens of thousands of people is on your hands. Repeating “Bush was right” every single day doesn’t pass for “in-depth analysis” no matter how much you ridicule the supermajority that believes otherwise.

    “we will reap the bloody harvest of that failure for decades to come.”

    As if that isn’t happening already….and won’t continue to happen whatever America decides to do about Iraq.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    So the only Democrat who can “reunite the country” is the Democrat who is among the 27% of Americans who believe we need to stay the course in Iraq? Come again?

    Oh yes. More people need to get their news from partisan internet blogs like JayReding.com–Conservatism with Attitude. Only then will people get “the full picture” about what’s going on in Iraq….and that of course is that “victory is right around the corner”.

    No, they should be getting views like those of independent journalists like Michael Yon, J.D. Johannes, and others. You know, people who actually spend time in Iraq that doesn’t involve sipping tea in the Green Zone…

    I know the feeling. Ask five random neocons in Washington to point to Iraqi WMD hotspots on a map and you’ll get met with five blank stares as well.

    Who’s living in 2003 now?

    You’re right. What would we do without Daily Kos?

    Actually have to think for yourself? Heaven knows what the incoherent hoards of lefty trolls would do without their marching orders…

    Here’s your biggest problem. Even people too dumb to identify Baghdad on a map are gonna read something as delusional as what you wrote above and identify you as a partisan nut unwilling to admit error even when the blood of tens of thousands of people is on your hands. Repeating “Bush was right” every single day doesn’t pass for “in-depth analysis” no matter how much you ridicule the supermajority that believes otherwise.

    I’ll say when Bush was right, and I’ll say when Bush was wrong. The national security strategy of the United States in the post-September 11 age was the right call. We cannot idly sit by and allow rogue regimes to get their hands on nuclear weapons. The old doctrines of deterrence don’t work against someone like Osama bin Laden and Hassan Nasrallah.

    The Bush Administration failed to keep the peace in Iraq mainly because we were pushing authority on the Iraqis too soon. They weren’t ready. It hasn’t been until General Petraeus took command that we’ve had a strong counterinsurgency playbook — he quite literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency tactics.

    Oh, but why bore you with details? You just want to hear your stupid little partisan hackery. Such boring things as what’s actually going on the world only clouds the issues right: all you need to know is that Bush is bad, Democrats are good, and partisan cheerleaders get the best pom-poms.

    As if that isn’t happening already….and won’t continue to happen whatever America decides to do about Iraq.

    Fine then. I take it you’re for Option One. I say we have the National Day of Surrender be on September 11, just to close the circle. Hell, let’s sign the documents of surrender to al-Qaeda on the site of the Flight 93 crash so we can really prostrate ourselves nicely.

    You and your ilk still don’t get it: if we lose in Iraq, things are going to get a lot worse. But you’re so blinded by your partisanship that you can’t see anything beyond the cracked lens of your Democratic affiliation. A withdrawal from Iraq is a victory from al-Qaeda. Our generals on the ground say that they can win this thing, and the fact that people like you want to tell them that you’re so much smarter and wiser than they and that everyone who is fighting over there is wasting their time is disgusting.

    Even though you don’t want to accept it, what you’re advocating is exactly what al-Qaeda wants — and the fact that so many are blindly servicing the enemy means that we may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  3. Marcia Crowley says:

    “The American people themselves have to start educating themselves on Iraq and the larger war-on-terrorism issues. To do this, they’ll have to get smarter fast. One way is to quit getting one’s news from Leno and Letterman and Bill Maher and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

    Yeah, like Fox News, Unfair and Unbalanced (in every sense) the Bush/Cheney far right TEEVEE! Or the neocons like Krauthammer who have somehow managed to get lucrative scream show jobs despite their lies and/or incompetence that has so harmed America.

    And, uhm, Saddam didn’t have any nukes, you know – no nukes, nothing to make them with, no thousands of gallons of biochem WMD’s, no mobile labs on traintracks, no yellow cake, no evil drones that could nuke Europe in 45 minutes. And not even any connection to al Qaeda. Did you listen to those who were saying that the Bush administration was wrong about the claims before the war? Or were you too busy enjoying the rush of having a rightwing war president like a little boy?

    It’s like the “Terrorist groups” that the Bush/Cheney regime have been “discovering” – all talk and no action. Having to be forced by the FBI to even think of doing anything. And some of them Christians. Bogey man bogey man! YOu righties love them – you can’t get elected without them – and now we are being treated to the rightwing claptrap that it was really Iran that we should have invaded so let’s start another Glorious War Adventure! With nukes this time?

    If you really wanted to have a tiny possibility to win in Iraq you’d push to impeach the criminals Bush and Cheney right now.

    You up for that?

  4. Mark says:

    “Our generals on the ground say that they can win this thing”

    Because their reputation is on the line by saying so. You don’t get to be a general without telling those above you exactly what they want to hear. At what point do you take the word of the “generals on the ground who say we can win this thing” with a grain of salt? Five years from now with still-escalating secterian violence and civil war? 10 years? 20 years? Does there ever come a point where generals ordered to say things that are going well lose their credibility?

    “we may yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”

    D’oh! So close to victory and then those awful surrender monkeys had to go and pull the rug out from under you. Just a wisp away from undisputable victory in Iraq in June 2007 and those lefties are about to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”. Assuming you’re still alive 50 years from now (we know you won’t die in combat at least), we could still be quagmired in the Iraqi civil war and that day when some future President pulls out, in June 2057, Jay Reding will still insist the “liberals in the media helped orchestrate snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Considering Sean Hannity will have Alzheimer’s by then, he’s counting on you to carry the torch of proclaiming “victory” as being right around the corner.

  5. Marcia Crowley says:

    Jay Reding:

    “You and your ilk still don’t get it:”

    from the people who brought us the Gloroious Adventure in Iraq and Afghanistan!

    From those who believed every lie they were told by the neocons and Cheney!

    From those who say it’s no problem that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who didn’t ask for Dick’s “help” are dead or maimed.

    That the child death rate by age 5 is one out of eight.

    That hordes or orphans aren’t being taken care of.

    The oil isn’t being shipped, people are dying from lack of electricty in 110 degree heat.

    The many women, who we saw before the invasion walking around Baghdad in western dress – women with good jobs – now we don’t see them at all, or a few in head-to-toe black burkhas.

    Before the invasion we were told that somehow in this evil dictatorship that was “worse than Hitler” every man had a rifle. Or more than one.

    There are far more lies that have been told than those about the WMD’s. Shades of Bush I’s war where we were told that Iraqis were taking preemies out of their incubators.

    Now we hear that the contractors are using slave labor in Iraq – they won’t hire Iraqis, so they round up people in Africa and tell them they’re going to Dubai ,and then take them to Baghdad and remove their passports. And pay them 45 cents an hour. See what the war is really about? Gloroius Global Capitalism.

    The more than 2 million people are refugees from IRaq and as many more inside Iraq.

    Tends of thousands of soldiers with permanent severies injuries, including a huge number with brain damage. How fitting: Bush causes brain damage in others so he’ll feel better about himself.

    All your Republican friends who told us lie after lie after lie, and now expect us to believe them. We don’t want to hear anymore Republican lies. We don’t want anymore Republican total incompetence We don’t want any Republican who cowardly and cringingly went along with the Bush REgime having any power at all. Ever. And the includes the cringing McCain who bent before Bush and got the treacherous kiss after being called a traitor by that same Bush and his Dick.

    You want another bogeyman to distract us from the lie about Saddam the Bogeyman and the lies about Reagan killing the USSR Bogeyman – you can’t get elected without a bogeyman!

    And it is US who “don’t get it?”

  6. Marcia Crowley says:

    Jay

    ““Our generals on the ground say that they can win this thing”

    SO DID RUMSFELD! Do you think we’re that stupid?

  7. Marcia Crowley says:

    Mark

    “Considering Sean Hannity will have Alzheimer’s by then,”

    Are you sure he doesn’t have it now, like Reagan did while president?

  8. Marcia Crowley says:

    Jay

    “You and your ilk still don’t get it: if we lose in Iraq, things are going to get a lot worse.”

    In fact things would get a lot worse. We’d have future presidents deliberately waging pre-emptive wars in order to claim huge privileges for the presidency, and, like Bush, going toward dictatorship and pushing for more secret torture dungeons, more spying on American citizens, more Big Brother Watching You, more dead Americans and others, more chaos, more destabilization and more trillions wasted.

  9. Marcia Crowley says:

    Should have been “It would get worse if we “won” whatever that can possibly mean at this point. It sure is obvious that no matter what Iraq will never be what the neocons promised it would be. We’d end up bombing it again in a few years since once again we’d decide that we just didn’t like them, and they have all OUR oil.

  10. Marcia Crowley says:

    “The old doctrines of deterrence don’t work against someone like Osama bin Laden and Hassan Nasrallah.”

    It’s dangerous for a repub to mention Osama. Bush and he are best friends, and the Repubs haven’t made a peep about it – you know like the guys you say ought to be the next preciousdunce and start the next glorious war – this time against iraN ?

  11. Marcia Crowley says:

    from your links’ spew:

    “assure that civil, not military, power is in charge of counterinsurgency efforts”

    ah, yes Bush tried that – he hired all those who agreed to bow down to him and say they loved him forever. And you righties loved it. You were going to turn iraq into a glorious unfettered capitalist utopia.

    A little too late to do the right thing now. And nobody believes a word you and your rightwingers say, anyway.

  12. Jay Reding says:

    Marcia: Please don’t spam with multiple posts. And try to stop spewing the same cant while you’re at it. It’s already old news.

    Because their reputation is on the line by saying so. You don’t get to be a general without telling those above you exactly what they want to hear. At what point do you take the word of the “generals on the ground who say we can win this thing” with a grain of salt? Five years from now with still-escalating secterian violence and civil war? 10 years? 20 years? Does there ever come a point where generals ordered to say things that are going well lose their credibility?

    Let’s see, we have Gen. David Petraeus, the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and Princeton Ph.D in international relations. The man who quite literally wrote the book on effective counterinsurgency operations.

    And on the other side we have a bunch of political hacks.

    Gee, which one should be trusted?

    An effective counterinsurgency takes right around nine years to complete. We’ve been in Iraq for just over 4 — in other words, we’re only halfway through.

    Mark:

    D’oh! So close to victory and then those awful surrender monkeys had to go and pull the rug out from under you. Just a wisp away from undisputable victory in Iraq in June 2007 and those lefties are about to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”. Assuming you’re still alive 50 years from now (we know you won’t die in combat at least), we could still be quagmired in the Iraqi civil war and that day when some future President pulls out, in June 2057, Jay Reding will still insist the “liberals in the media helped orchestrate snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Considering Sean Hannity will have Alzheimer’s by then, he’s counting on you to carry the torch of proclaiming “victory” as being right around the corner.

    The fact that you reach to such idiotic hyperbole only shows how little you know.

    Again, past experience says that a typical counterinsurgency takes nine years to restore order. I know the Democrats can’t wait to sign that treaty of surrender with al-Qaeda, but to do so now is idiotic.

    We lost more people in one battle in the Second World War than in 4 years of combat in Iraq. I suppose that had you been around then you’d be demanding that FDR sign a document of surrender to Hitler because we’d never defeat the Third Reich. Then again, back in those days, someone who made such an argument usually was shunned as an unpatriotic fool.

    Let’s stop bullshitting around — you really don’t give two shits about Iraq. This is all about politics. You don’t support the war not based on what’s really going on in Iraq but because you have the notion that the war = Bush and your simpleminded partisanship blinds you to anything else. That’s why you’re profoundly incurious about the war except for how it polls.

    Declaring the war lost is a way of justifying your own political position, not about what’s good for the country or even for the rest of the globe. Just drop the pretenses and the bullshit, take your white feather, and demand a formal surrender to al-Qaeda. That’s what the consequences of your position would be, so why be afraid of them. If you want to embrace surrender, then embrace it.

    If Iraq truly cannot be won, then we can’t win against al-Qaeda, and we have to surrender the whole thing. Because the second we leave Iraq, all those foreign jihadis will move through Iran into Afghanistan (those that don’t end up here, anyway). If we don’t have the guts to fight in Iraq, why in hell should al-Qaeda think that things in Afghanistan would be any different.

    It’s the fundamental ignorance of you and your ilk that damns us in this war. Al-Qaeda knows our weaknesses, and we have an entire segment of the population hell-bent on proving them right.

  13. Mark says:

    “Again, past experience says that a typical counterinsurgency takes nine years to restore order.”

    If you think the American people have the political will to send 3500 more of their sons and daughters to slaughter for the next four and a half years, defeat was inevitable from the get-go. And our “counterinsurgency” in Vietnam lasted more than 10 years. Why didn’t that end favorably after that golden ninth year?

    “We lost more people in one battle in the Second World War than in 4 years of combat in Iraq.”

    Yes, in an era where infinitely more troops were in combat, infinitely more battles were waged in infinitely more places, while infinitely less sophisticated armor was available to troops, more Americans died. By your logic, only processing plants that distribute contaminated food to hundreds (as opposed to simply dozens) of consumers should be held liable for their poor choices.

    “Let’s stop bullshitting around — you really don’t give two shits about Iraq. This is all about politics. You don’t support the war not based on what’s really going on in Iraq but because you have the notion that the war = Bush and your simpleminded partisanship blinds you to anything else”

    Pretty bold statement to make to a guy whose best friend served in Iraq for 18 months…and who still has a couple of friends over there…none of whom quite understand why the hell they’re still there….or why their tours are being arbitrarily extended when guys like you and I never have to serve. Bottom line: I called the war as a historic blunder of epic proportions five years ago….and was vindicated. And in the last 12-18 months, I’ve become convinced that anything resembling victory is not achievable there….and a growing chorus of credible sources agrees with me. When you already hold an ever-shrinking minority position on an issue, it’s not necessarily persuasive to fire back at those who disagree with you as not caring about troops in Iraq, particularly when it’s your position that ensures more of them will be put more of them in bodybags.

    “If Iraq truly cannot be won, then we can’t win against al-Qaeda, and we have to surrender the whole thing.”

    We can’t defeat al-Qaeda on that particular battleground, in the midst of a secterian civil war where the enemy of our enemy is an even worse enemy. There are no easy answers, but we played right into al-Qaeda’s hands by creating a cesspool of ethnic hatred in Iraq that al-Qaeda was able to swoop in and exploit. Iraq is not going to a pretty place if we withdrawal (or if we stay for that matter), but when a strategic error of this magnitude has been made, the rules of the game have to change to AVOID full-scale defeat. I’m not harboring specific answers on how to go about that, but the first step is to remove one’s self from the crosshairs of your enemy. Interesting how even Donald Rumsfeld realized this in his written (but ultimately suppressed until after his termination) endorsement of the Murtha plan.

  14. Mark says:

    Now even Richard Lugar wants out. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070626/ap_on_go_co/lugar_iraq_4;_ylt=Aik7MisHjRmmGeLTzCbGBuEL1vAI

    The ranks of the surrender monkeys who hate our troops is growing by the day. If only we had the steely resolve to listen exclusively to the folks who predicted (with unbridled shrillness to match the arrogance) that we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq when they now insist with the same level of smug obnoxiousness that victory is right around the corner in Iraq. Instead, those left-wing thugs like Richard Lugar under the sinister spell of the mainstream media cabal insist upon “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”….and right when we’re SO CLOSE!

  15. Marcia Crowley says:

    “Marcia: Please don’t spam with multiple posts. And try to stop spewing the same cant while you’re at it.”

    Ah, that’s only allowed to rightwingers who have been spewing the same cant now for decades.

  16. Marcia Crowley says:

    Senator Lugar doesn’t love the surge.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19426648/

  17. Jay Reding says:

    Now even Richard Lugar wants out.

    With all due respects to Senator Lugar, if he thinks he can sit in judgement of a surge that’s only just begun, he’s wrong.

    The ranks of the surrender monkeys who hate our troops is growing by the day.

    Which undoubtedly gives much comfort to al-Qaeda.

    If only we had the steely resolve to listen exclusively to the folks who predicted (with unbridled shrillness to match the arrogance) that we’d be greeted as liberators in Iraq when they now insist with the same level of smug obnoxiousness that victory is right around the corner in Iraq. Instead, those left-wing thugs like Richard Lugar under the sinister spell of the mainstream media cabal insist upon “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”….and right when we’re SO CLOSE!

    Again, I would rather listen to the people who actually spend their time in Iraq observing the situation than to a bunch of political hacks.

    Odd, isn’t it, how the people who are actually in Iraq see the situation completely differently from those who wouldn’t know Sadr City from their own asses? Perhaps the reason is that what is actually happening in Iraq is completely different from what’s being reported.

    No, that couldn’t be it, we all know that the wise and learned General Mark knows far more than Gen. David Petraeus, and that Iraq is surely lost.