The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, November 19, 2007


With hindsight, there’s very little question that our war in Iraq was based on bad intelligence data, was ill-conceived at the outset, and was badly executed after our rapid thrust into Baghdad. We made fundamental political miscalculations as well as strategic and tactical mistakes. We should all be angry that these errors were made, but it’s also fair to state that similar errors have occurred in every war that has been fought in the past 100 years.

The New York Times (certainly no great supporter of Bush administration policies in Iraq) reports:
Data released at a news conference in Baghdad showed that attacks had declined to the lowest level since January 2006. It is the third week in a row that attacks have been at this reduced level … the figures added to a body of evidence, compiled by American and Iraqi officials, indicating that the violence had diminished significantly since the United States reinforced troop levels in Iraq and adopted a new counterinsurgency strategy.

In addition, it appears that Al Qaeda in Iraq is losing badly. Again from the NYT:
Military analysts said a number of factors explained the drop. They say, for example, that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a predominantly Iraqi insurgent group with foreign leadership, has been greatly weakened by American military attacks.

Thousands of new Sunni volunteers have made common cause with the Americans. About 72,000 such civilians have joined the effort, American officials said, and 45,000 each receive a $300 a month stipend from the Americans to help with the effort.

Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric, has ordered his militiamen to stand down. American military officials also say that Iran appears to be abiding by a commitment to reduce the flow of roadside bombs and other weapons into Iraq. Beyond that, many Iraqis appear to be exhausted by the sectarian violence and eager for a modicum of stability.

Could it be that things are actually improving in the war-torn country? Could it be that the Iraqis (with our help) may yet be able to establish a stable representative government—a new kind of country in the Arab crescent? Only time will tell.

Let’s assume for a moment that we have some modicum of success going forward. The big question is: Was it worth it? Was the cost in American and Iraqi lives, the drain on our treasury, and the political upheaval in our own country justified.

The Democratic leadership in Congress doesn’t think so, and continually passes legislation (vetoed by the President) to withdraw our troops and come home. Their approach is to cut our loses and accept defeat.

During this snapshot in time, many of us would prefer to walk away. Four years of war have exhausted the public, and it’s hard to see how Iraq can turn out well.

But past experience indicates that unpopular wars sometime lead to good results, Michael Barone comments on another war prosecuted by a Democratic President, Harry S. Truman. After presiding over 50,000 American deaths in a war that was 8,000 miles away, Truman’s popularity ratings at the end of his term were lower than George W. Bush’s are right now.
When my father returned from service as an Army doctor in Korea in 1953, he brought back slides of the photos he'd shot, showing a war-torn country of incredible poverty. We would have laughed if you had told us that Americans would one day buy Korean cars. But 50-some years later, South Korea has the 13th-largest economy in the world, and you see Hyundais and Kias everywhere in America. Looking at things in micro-timeframes is not always a reliable guide to the macro-timeframe future.

But US politics in the first decade of the 21st century mirrors our national need for instant gratification. It seems to focus solely on “micro-timeframes.” We have no patience, and therefore no resolve.