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Friday, September 5, 2008

The "Surge"

"In the animal kingdom, the rule is eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined."

__- Dr. Thomas Szasz, "The Second Sin"

"Obama still refuses to admit that The Surge has succeeded."

This is a central John McCain (and campaign surrogates) talking point, one with which Bill O'Reilly has now fairly successfully hammered Barack Obama during their "O'Reilly Factor" interview (first aired Sept 4th, 2008 on Fox).

Many liberal political blog commenters have recently voiced concerns regarding the Obama decision to submit to a one-on-one Fox TV interview with the partisan, always-combative Bill O'Reilly. For example:

Of course, I watched the interview. And CNN just played a snippet. So? I still think it was a mistake and can guarantee you that the Right will be doing some careful, selective, manipulative editing on it. Expect to see a Republican ad with Obama saying "Yes, the surge worked…beyond our wildest dreams…"

How can that be helpful?
It is not. You never let an adversary frame the debate.

My response would have been:
"Bill, let me stop you right there. Arguing about the relative merits of this surge is irrelevant to the fundamental judgment issue, i.e., had we not invaded Iraq, had we kept our eyes on the prize in Afghanistan, we might well have largely wrapped things up by now, at a cost/benefit of many thousand of tragic deaths and maimings fewer and hundreds of billions of dollars less. We'd not have had the morally eviscerating infamy of Abu Ghraib, and bin Laden might well now be dead or in custody.

We might now be focused on electing a President, rather than simply a "Commander-in-Chief" — a blindered focus that assumes that our all-consuming national priority is now, and will indefinitely and inevitably comprise nothing more than threatening, starting, and managing wars at every turn, to the effective exclusion of every other substantive presidential leadership obligation, foreign and domestic.

So, I stand by the correctness of my original Iraq judgment. Senator McCain, recall, has taken pains of late to distinguish between the breadth and length of my experience and the cogency of my judgment -- finding mostly abstract fault with the latter, -- but the current ostensible reactive necessity and short-term arguable efficacy of the surge does nothing whatsoever to refute the soundness of my initial judgment with respect to Iraq. It only reinforces it. This surge is a tactical tourniquet applied to a festering wound that ought never have been inflicted.

Moreover, I might add the following point for the sake of charity and clarity: Let's assume the political inevitability of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, exclusive of its relative merits on threat-intelligence grounds at the time (and ignoring here the intel facts that have become utterly clear by now). What about the judgments of senior military commanders at the time who argued forcefully for a ground force size roughly three to four times larger than the Bush adminstration opted for? What became of them?

We know what happened, Bill. They were shouted down by Bush civilian neocon advisors -- none of whom had ever served in uniform -- and then cashiered out.

The prevailing "Shock and Awe" Bush administration "judgment" was that the world at large and our immediate adversaries would be so thoroughy cowed by our unparalleled technological military might as to fall in line forthwith and comply. The words of the belligerent neocon Michael Ledeen come to mind: 'Every ten years or so, the U.S. needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.'

Well, five years later the seemingly intractable, egregiously debilitating human and financial carnage are plain for all to see. Our Middle Eastern adversaries appear to have not gotten the Memo. Today, the Afghan Taliban (and their Pakistani
tribal region allies), Iran, and Vladimir Putin all see relatively free rein to take advantage of the enervating upshot of Bush administration military and geopolitical naivete.

So, I don't think I have to listen to any lectures about the viability of my 'judgment' with respect to Iraq in particular and the threats posed by the larger world in general. I made the right call on Iraq at the outset."
Obama is simply gonna have to do better. Define Or Be Defined. It's the Law.

I now get hit up multiple times a day in my email inbox by the Obama campaign, asking for even more of my money, for my volunteer pound-the-precincts-pavement time, and for use of my spare bedroom in which to house transient campaign staff. Sometimes I have to wonder, given the serious concern I just proffered, if Barack is really up to the fight. Time is short. I wonder and worry that perhaps I'm going to just re-live my Quixotic Kerry 2004 effort.

This is one reason I'm not a Democrat.