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.