My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Rocky Mountain News Follows Domenici Into the Surrender Caucus

Saturday's lead editorial in the Rocky was a disappointment. So much so, in fact, that I'm going to post the whole thing and provide running commentary.

President Bush should heed the advice of Sens. Pete Domenici and Richard Lugar [two men with a combined 64--SIXTY-FOUR--years of tenure in the Senate; experienced? or petrified? (see also: Senatitis). They're not rabble- rousers. They're not out to embarrass the president or his party; they're Republicans themselves, after all. But the respected senators from New Mexico and Indiana believe the time has come - or almost certainly will come this fall - for a new strategy in Iraq, one that removes most U.S. troops from combat even as it preserves a role for training, counterterrorism and support. [while similarly failing to remove any such constrictions from Al-Qaeda--if a soldiers is killed by a bomb while in a "support" role, is it still a combat death?]

"We cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress," said Domenici. [from his plush, air conditioned Washington, D.C. office]

By September, when Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are scheduled to report on the results of this summer's military "surge," it will have been 4 1/2 years since the start of the war. That is not a minor or impulsive military commitment, despite what those who apparently favor an open-ended struggle sometimes seem to suggest. [if a terrorist is willing to make an open-ended commitment to the struggle, does that also suggest they think we are impulsive?]

In the current issue of Time, commentator William Kristol maintains that "a decent outcome - the defeat of al-Qaida in what it has made the central front in the war on terrorism and enough security so there can be peaceful rule by a representative regime - seems to me achievable, if we don't lose our nerve here at home."

Kristol may be right that those outcomes are still achievable, but he shouldn't blame a lack of "nerve" for the fact that a growing percentage of Americans don't share his optimism. [perhaps he should blame a media that works its tail off to hide good news from America] It's not nerve they lack. It's evidence [see previous]- evidence that the Iraqi government is making progress forging a broad coalition capable of pursuing a war against the Islamist enemy and sectarian militias that are hostile to stable, representative authority. actually, they'd probably be just fine if they heard the stories of actual engagements that Michael Yon has been telling, or saw more pictures of the atrocities Al-Qaida commits than they do pictures of Abu Graib]

"We've all been, to one degree or another, disappointed in the Iraqi government," Domenici acknowledged Thursday in a notable understatement ["so we're going to claim defeat and run away to somewhere safe].

Two months ago, we argued against the attempts of some Democrats to impose a timetable for withdrawal on the Bush administration. That is still the path of folly, as Domenici and Lugar both recognize. It is even possible that the September assessment of Petraeus and Crocker will not support Domenici's conclusion that a new strategy is needed [but we're still going to jump on this bandwagon].

Possible, but not likely [based on the extensive military experience and acument of the Rocky editorial board]. Deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto was certainly not trumpeting any transformation of the war this week [in compliance with the express wishes of Gen. Patraeus]. "It is certainly way too early to give any kind of definitive grade on how the surge is doing," he said. "We see hopeful signs of progress. We see hopeful signs of success. We're certainly not in a place to say that the surge has been a success. And we think no one is in a place to say that the surge is not a success either." [especially not members of the media from a mid-market city]

After more than four years of corners supposedly turned and light detected at the ends of tunnels, forgive us for doubting that two more months of the surge - or 10 more - will prove decisive. But Petraeus and his troops are getting their chance to prove the skeptics wrong. [see, we're going to give them two more months].

Kristol, like most of those advocating that America stay the course, rightly points out that "with success in Iraq, progress elsewhere in the Middle East will be easier." A stable, reasonably tolerant government in the heart of the Arab world that respected the vote and rule of law would indeed be a monumental watershed. Like President Bush, we believe that someday such a country will exist, too. [we're just unwilling to commit to its creation]

But if that country is going to be near-term Iraq, its government and tribal and religious leaders must realize that their window of greatest opportunity, as represented by the presence of American combat troops, may start to close as soon as next year - five years, remember, after the start of hostilities. To paraphrase Domenici, Americans cannot ask their troops to sacrifice indefinitely if the Iraqis appear more committed to sectarian domination than to defeating the Islamic radicals in their midst.

Because, what? Americans should run away from this, should abandon our allies to the whim of the Islamic radicals in their midst, should condemn innocents who have helped us and worked with us to atrocities unimaginable by most Americans, and then just hope that a strengthened, rested, and safe-havened Al-Qaida will leave us alone.

Good plan.

Unfortunately, this goes to the heart of the difficulty the administration is now having. When centrist editorial boards like the Rocky's, which has been firm and consistent in regard to the war until now, begin to abandon you, the chance you have to continue to make your case is just about ended. Had the administration been better about making the case that Al-Qaida needs to be ended in Iraq for the last three years, it would be easier to make the case now for holding the course.

Had the administration made the decision to inform the American public to the evil of the enemy, we would not be having this difficulty now. It's not enough to call them evil--pictures are available to show us the evil. If not Michael Yon, certainly others in the military have chronicled the nature of the enemy.

Sadly, the administration has hidden too much. And now its too late to make the case.

Again I say: Gen. Patraeus--hurry.

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