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August 31, 2004

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Chopper Seven

But the question remains, can the WoT be won?

Only if the true identity of the enemy is exposed. That enemy is islamic jihad. Does the west have the cojones to confront islamic jihad? I wonder. Seems many are ready to appease it.

spongeworthy

You make some good points, and a good commercial. But it is going to be a tough sell--Kerry will prosecute the war more aggressively than Bush. If I were Bush, I'd call him on that: Tell me how, when Britain, France, Russia and India all struggle with the same terror, that you have the answer. And if you do, why haven't you shared it with us?

Larry J

"Wars" against amorphous targets are hard to win. Guerrilla warfare has been going on for decades in several countries like the Philippines and Peru. Look how long the Vietnam war dragged on. Guerrillas, like terrorists, can attack and then fade back into the scenery until they're ready to attack again.

The war on terror will be very hard to win. It isn't as straight-forward as defeating an enemy nation. Instead, we have to defeat an ideology and a mindset. Unlike an enemy's industrial base, you can't bomb an idea into oblivion.

Instead, probably the best we can do is continue to go after international terrorism on several fronts. We need to go after their financial sources. We need to go after nations that harbor terrorists and who use terrorism as a vehicle of foreign policy. We need to go after the terrorists themselves, capturing or killing them whenever we get the opportunity. And we need to step up our intelligenc efforts to try to head off future attacks.

In some ways, the War on Terror will be as difficult to win as the War on Poverty (40 years old and counting), the War on Crime, the War on Cancer, or the War on Drugs. All of these things have amorphous targets.

Jeff

I think a better title would be "Depends on what the meaning of 'war' is." There are two (or more) issues at play here--politics and foreign policy. Only an idiot thinks the "war on terror" is a war. It's a new beast that bears little resemblance to anything humans have understood war to be over the past 5 millenia. But the politics of foreign policy--wherein you wave a flag and ridicule the French--demand that you call it a war. Bush had a momentary lapse and confused the policy with the politics (something Rove would never do).

But now Bush will have to live with it, and I for one, having watched Kerry get torn up politically for what he did in the war, hope Bush is ripped hard and long by the left.

(Though of course I agree with him--we can't win it, not in any sense of the word that has real meaning.)

J_Crater

Saying you can "win a war on terror" is a self fulfilling failure. Which terror ? The terror of Mr. Byrd being dragged behind a truck; Gov. Bush got them but there was terror nonetheless. Likewise for gays, abortion providers, the elderly et al. And this is even before we get to the Islamofacists.
LBJ had his "War on Poverty;" a war with no exit strategy. There still are poor even after seven different Presidents have been in office. When you raise up the bottom, they are still at the bottom but, of course, these are the richest poor in the world.
All these things, like the definition of poor, keep getting defined up. I mean before long having a homophobic thought, opposing abortion or cloning will be defined as terroristic activities.

The real problem with all these wars is clearly articulated by President Bush as "I think you can create conditions so that those who use (fill in the blank) are less acceptable."
Afterall, I've been told Bush is an absolutist, so exactly who is the king of nuance here ?

ParseThis

Bush certainly has the press trained when the initial reaction is to wonder if he 'misspoke'. With my current nostalgia for things three decades ago, I recall those t-shirts with catchy phrases like "Keep 'Em Guessin'" (Somebody in NYC right now has to be sporting a "Nuke the Whales" tee!) But back to Bush. He's certainly seems unassailable. He's surrounded by a moat with sentries posted to take delivery when the buck comes calling. And now, nothing Bush says or does can even be attributed to him without wondering about foreign country operatives, bureaucratic groupthink, poor advisor service, synaptic misfires or divine intervention.

ParseThis

In this case, I think Bush has determined that he has his base wrapped up and is reaching out to swing voters. So I should add 'politics-over-policy' to the list.

The Kid

Context, context, context. What the hell good are journalists if they can’t give us the context? The reporters just picked up the Democrat spin.

Bush was asked about winning the war in four years.

Here’s the transcript and the excerpt.


Lauer: “You said to me a second ago, one of the things you'll lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you really think we can win this war on terror in the next four years?”

President Bush: “I have never said we can win it in four years.”

Lauer: “So I’m just saying can we win it? Do you see that?”

President Bush: “I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world –- let's put it that way. I have a two pronged strategy. On the one hand is to find them before they hurt us, and that's necessary. I’m telling you it's necessary. The country must never yield, must never show weakness [and] must continue to lead. To find al-Qaida affiliates who are hiding around the world and … harm us and bring ‘em to justice –- we're doing a good job of it. I mean we are dismantling the al-Qaidaas we knew it. The long-term strategy is to spread freedom and liberty, and that's really kind of an interesting debate. You know there's some who say well, ‘You know certain people can't self govern and accept, you know, a former democracy.’ I just strongly disagree with that. I believe that democracy can take hold in parts of the world that are now non-democratic and I think it's necessary in order to defeat the ideologies of hate. History has shown that it can work, that spreading liberty does work. After all, Japan is our close ally and my dad fought against the Japanese. Prime Minister Koizumi, is one of the closest collaborators I have in working to make the world a more peaceful place.”

Arrrgh! This is not complex, people!

David Pinto

My local paper had this story today with the headline Bush Says Terror War Unwinnable. This brought to mind my favorite Dick Stockton quote of all time. He was covering a '76's playoff game and said, "When Andrew Toney is on the court, the Seventy Sixers are unstoppable. Now, I don't mean they can't be stopped." Seems to fit this situation just fine.

khr128

This "mental slip" can be used as a clever trap now. If the opposing camp starts harping on "Bush is a defeatist" theme,
Bush and Co will have a perfect opportunity to compare records with Kerry on "defeatism". I don't think Kerry would like to compare his records on anything with anybody. OK, perhaps with Ted Kennedy.

Cecil Turner

"Only an idiot thinks the "war on terror" is a war."

This is the basic WoT debate: war; or law enforcement. The "war" camp believes the various groups are proxies, with national sponsorship and support, and that nations who sponsor terrorists are engaging in acts of war. The law enforcement group seeks to track down individual terrorists and bring them to justice.

The problem of how to track down terrorists when they're provided safe haven by host nations is obvious. Also obvious is the dramatically increased danger posed by terrorists with access to national weapons programs. And only one camp has a logical answer. Quibbling over whether the "War on Terror" should be called a "war" is moot. But if you're serious about stopping it, you have to be willing to go to war with nations who persist in sponsoring terror.

Patrick R. Sullivan

The Kid is correct, Bush was asked twice if he could win the war in four years. That's what he was responding to. And you can almost hear him put quotation marks around the word, "win".

It was a perfectly reasonable answer.

Jeff

This is the basic WoT debate: war; or law enforcement.

That's the political debate. It's not the foreign policy debate. I don't have an opinion on the political debate. It's clear you've got to say it is a war and it is winnable (as Bush now declares, trying to scuttle beyond his gaffe), but that's just red meat for the voters.

The fact is something far more complex. Terrorism is a mutable cancer. Sometimes states sponsor terrorists, but this is hardly necessary. It arises where instability flourishes, and states are as necessary to terrorists as bikes to fish. The solution is slow and almost impossibly complex. Personally, I tend to think the road map lies in Tom Barnett's solution--outlined in his book The Pentagon's New Map.

As to whether we need to continue the Bush doctrine of invading vaguely threatening countries that have connections to terror--I think that's well and strongly discredited. Saddam was a nut and a ruthless killer, but no one seriously believes the US is safer now that we've deposed him. I'd really love to get away from the neocon fantasy world. Hell, even a little of Kissinger's old brutal realpolitik looks pretty sober to me now. Invading unstable Muslim countries is--and I don't know how Iraq could more clearly demonstrate this--NOT a step toward stability.

GT

I'm gald Bush accepts the obvious.

Meanwhile we seem to have already lost in Iraq.

Cecil Turner

"As to whether we need to continue the Bush doctrine of invading vaguely threatening countries that have connections to terror--I think that's well and strongly discredited."

Which probably explains Kerry's crystal clear position on Iraq. The Dems' inability to come to grips with this issue, or lay out a credible alternative, is what led Kerry to come up with the brilliant idea of basing his national security policy on his Vietnam record. "We may be a little older now, we may be a little grayer, but we still know how to fight for our country." It's also the main reason he's losing.

GT

Cecil,

Given that the latest poll has him up by 3 I'm not sure he's losing yet.

Les Nessman

"Meanwhile we seem to have already lost in Iraq", he shreiked, throwing his dress over his head. ("But I support the troops", he quickly added.)

Goodness, the relentless ABB hyperbole in thread after thread after thread....

ohthehumanity

"But if you're serious about stopping it, you have to be willing to go to war with nations who persist in sponsoring terror."

Which has led to the bulk of our military being parked in Iraq for the foreseeable future, limiting our military flexibility drastically.

Which has led to us being unable to go to war with other nations who persist in sponsoring terror.

ohthehumanity

The Kid:

Lauer: "[...] Do you really think we can win this war on terror in the next four years?”

President Bush: “I have never said we can win it in four years.”

Lauer: “So I’m just saying can we win it? Do you see that?”

It seems pretty clear to me that with his second question, Lauer is acknowledging Bush's response to the first question (and that one wasn't a great question, fersure - actually kind of a dumb question) and then casting a wider net - and asking a better, more salient question, and what in all honesty should have been a softball for a politician like Bush.

It all depends on what the meaning of 'it' is in Lauer's 2nd question. I took it to mean the war on terror in general, in the long term, and it seems pretty clear from Bush's response that he interpreted it just like that.

Cecil Turner

"Which has led to the bulk of our military being parked in Iraq for the foreseeable future . . ."

140,000 is not "the bulk" of 1.4 million-man armed forces--it's a lot closer to "a tithe." (A bit less, once you count reserves.)

"Which has led to us being unable to go to war with other nations who persist in sponsoring terror."

What "other nations" would that be?

GT

Les,

You can delude yourself all you want but we probably have lost already. I'd say we have lost but I want to allow for that small possibility of change.

DO you not read the news?

The insurgents have gotten stronger. They outright control whole cities. Thye know we will not destroy them so all they have to do, and are doing, is wear us out. Already a majority of Americans thinks the war was not worth it. A few more months and they will be clamoring to get the troops back.

And let's hope George Will is wrong abouta new massive Tet-like offensive to be launched by the Baathists in October.

Les Nessman

"They outright control whole cities. " Well, I guess 2 is plural. Don't know about 'outright control', though.

"And let's hope George Will is wrong abouta new massive Tet-like offensive..." Uh, GT, maybe YOU don't know history. We WON Tet. It was the last gasp of the NVA. It was lost in the newsrooms of America. Which I guess is just what you mean. You would do the same cut-and-run as Vietnam, wouldn't you?

john marzan

If you saw the portion of the interview where he said "I don't think we can win it," he did emphasize the "win it" part (kinda like putting finger/air quotes on those last two words).

(He meant that we cannot win this war in a traditional sense.)

Obviously, the guy is not good at "nuance". The one time he tried it, he messed up. My advice is for Bush to leave the "nuance" business to the experts like Kerry.

I'm sure the dems will try to use this gaffe to show that Bush is "weak on terrorism." But people know better, and the dems will be ridiculed and laughed at if they made that claim.

donnab

I saw the interview and all the brouhaha afterward is ridiculous. For anyone who actually saw it, the meaning was evident. He said,"I dont think you can win....IT."
Emphasis on IT and then went on to explain. However most of the media has irresponsibly (imagine that) remarked on hearsay...not bothering to go back and listen for themselves. IT is not a "war", not one that can be typified by normal standards applied. IT can be controlled ..fought...watched with vigilance. But IT wont be snuffed and treaties and peace agreements wont put an end to the nuts out there waging war against everyone. In "war" even there are places that are frowned upon putting agression on. Not applicable to these nuts as evident by now holding children hostage in Russia. Im sick and tired of listening to the negativity espoused by Edwards every chance he gets, then hear the whining when anything slightly resembling such hits back at them. Grow up already and stick to the issues.

GT

Les,

Are you being purposefully obtuse?

We did not win Tet.

We only won in a strictly military sense but that's not what is being debated here. Nobody doubts that the US military can crush anyone who opposes it in Iraq. Nobody.

But we lack the political will to truly destroy the enemy and they know it. Tet was a loss for us not becasue of the military impact but because Americans realized they had been lied to about how things were going and support for the war dropped.

They insurgents know this. They control Fallujah, Sammarra, and Ramadi. They control parts of Baghdad (Sadr City). They are free to operate most everywhere. They have no lack of supporters. The new estimates are that hard core supporters number about 120,000. Remember last year when some right wing bloggers calculated the insurgency was about over because some 'experts' were saying there were only 5,000 insurgents and we had killed 4,000?

The bottom line is this. The Iraqi govt does not have armed forces capable of standing up to the rebels. So he must rely on the US which reduces his legitimacy.

The rebels on the other hand know that although they can't fight the US troops head-on they can wear them out. They know we will not do what is necessary to destroy them. That's why a year and half after we declared major operations over Americans are dying at an increasing rate and Baathists control Western Iraq.

Sadr is stronger than he was last year and he can achieve his stated objectives (US out of Iraq and some form of Sharia law in the country) by political means.

Cecil Turner

The bottom line is this. The Iraqi govt does not have armed forces capable of standing up to the rebels.

Nonsense. The Iraqi government has more capable forces than the insurgents--and more political support--and that disparity will only increase. Sadr can't even control a majority of his own sect. Now that they've lost their military supremacy, the die-hard Baathists have no chance of governing. If the insurgents had parity, they'd be fighting pitched battles instead of setting off a few bombs.

Vietnam analogies are also inapt. If we'd trounced the NVA, taken Hanoi, and fought the VC (with modest PRC support) in outlying hamlets, while taking casualties at about 1/50th the historic rate, there'd be a valid strategic parallel. The situations aren't remotely similar (except for a remarkably defeatist media, which seems to be an American constant).

GT

Cecil,

Reality says otherwise. The rebels, not Allawi, control Fallujah, Ramdai and Samarra. Allawi can't even walk the streets of Bagdad.


I'm sorry but you are just making things up.

Les Nessman

gt:
"But we lack the political will to truly destroy the enemy and they know it."
LOL! For the sake of argument, if that is so, it is because of people like YOU! Stop attacking us and actually support our effort, you may see better results.

Jeff

The Dems' inability to come to grips with this issue [Iraq], or lay out a credible alternative, is what led Kerry to come up with the brilliant idea of basing his national security policy on his Vietnam record.

This is an interesting meme I've seen righties trundle out lately. Bush has 1) invaded a country based on false intel, hubris, and faith; 2) invaded without the vaugest sense of what will happen once the "war" is won; 3) botched every facet of the post-invasion reconstruction. But after all, Kerry "has no plan." By all means, stick with this towering figure of foreign policy strategy. He makes Churchill look like a chump.

(Sorry, I slipped into snark a little too stridently there. I should also say that Kerry DOES have a strategy, it's well articulated, and you can find it by doing a quick search on google or his website--look for the 3-point plan he laid out earlier this summer.)

I'll also agree that the Iraq situation bears almost no resemblance to Vietnam--but that's not a good thing. Iraq is not a unified country fighting a civil war with US intervention, it's a deeply divided country fighting a civil war with US intervention. There are no good solutions in the country, and it's now beginning to dawn on the apparachiks in the neocon coterie why we were buddies with strongman Saddam back in the 80s--he, at least, knew how to keep the peace.

Les Nessman

Cecil "The situations aren't remotely similar (except for a remarkably defeatist media, which seems to be an American constant)." That's right. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that the lefties are trying to do again.
MSM-quagmire!
MSM-bad news!
MSM- horror!
American public- Hmm, maybe things aren't going very well in Iraq...
MSM- Aha!! See, the American Public are against the war! Quagmire!Quagmire! ... (rinse, repeat)

Cecil Turner

The rebels, not Allawi, control Fallujah, Ramdai and Samarra.

Nobody controls Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra. The disparate groups of rebels don't control anything, bar the occasional mosque--and they can't hold even those. If you apply the same criteria to them you apply to Allawi, the only possible conclusion is that they're losing a lot worse.

"Bush has 1) invaded a country based on false intel, hubris, and faith; . . ." ad nauseam

You appear to've forgotten repeated violations of the GW cease-fire, 17 UNSC resolutions, and public check-signing ceremonies for the families of suicide bombers, et al--all laid out in stark detail in several public policy speeches. And for all the intel failures, there's no doubt on the central issue: Saddam did not comply with UNSC resolution 1441 and the ones leading up to it.

But even if all the overwrought criticism was valid, it'd still be a loser. "You can't beat something with nothing" is a basic fact of life. And when your candidate's national defense policies sound like: "Yes, I would have voted for the authority;" "I voted for it before I voted against it;" and "You bet we might have;" what you have is "nothing."

Les: Concur. But luckily the public has a learning curve. "Fool me once . . ."

GT

The disparate groups of rebels don't control anything, bar the occasional mosque--

Like I wrote, you simply don't know what you are talking about.

I suggest you pick up a newspaper.

You can start here and here.

As for what Americans think (and this is for Les as well) you can check the latest WSJ poll. 49% think the war is not worth it and only 43% think it worthwhile. Gallup and the rest have similar numbers.

GT

And http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040901faessay83505/larry-diamond/what-went-wrong-in-iraq.html>here's an analysis of why we goofed up.

Cecil Turner

"I suggest you pick up a newspaper."

Which, of course, would say the insurgents "control" all of Iraq. But of course, they must stay hidden in "safe houses" while Allawi & Co. don't have "control," despite having public meetings, running the various ministries, etc.

Whatever the word "control" means, it's obvious you're using two wildly varying standards. I suggest you pick up a dictionary.

P.S. An analysis of "why we goofed up" won't sell. An analysis of "what we can do better" will.

TM

A perma-link for the gloom-inducing NY Times article ny John Burns and Erik Eckholm:

In Western Iraq, Fundamentalists Hold U.S. at Bay:

AGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 28 - While American troops have been battling Islamic militants to an uncertain outcome in Najaf, the Shiite holy city, events in two Sunni Muslim cities that stand astride the crucial western approaches to Baghdad have moved significantly against American plans to build a secular democracy in Iraq.

Both of the cities, Falluja and Ramadi, and much of Anbar Province, are now controlled by fundamentalist militias, with American troops confined mainly to heavily protected forts on the desert's edge. What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks. Even bombing raids appear to strengthen the fundamentalists, who blame the Americans for scores of civilian deaths.

American efforts to build a government structure around former Baath Party stalwarts - officials of Saddam Hussein's army, police force and bureaucracy who were willing to work with the United States - have collapsed. Instead, the former Hussein loyalists, under threat of beheadings, kidnappings and humiliation, have mostly resigned or defected to the fundamentalists, or been killed. Enforcers for the old government, including former Republican Guard officers, have put themselves in the service of fundamentalist clerics they once tortured at Abu Ghraib.

Now, it is worth remembering that "the rebels" are not monolithic - a day may come when the Sunni rebels are quashed by the Shiites.

GT

Tom,

Well that would be civil war. Not unlikely, though.

Cecil,

read what I (and Tom) linked. The rebels are not hidden in safe houses. They are running Western Iraq.

Cecil Turner

"read what I (and Tom) linked. The rebels are not hidden in safe houses. They are running Western Iraq."

Right. I suppose that's why the article you linked went on to say:
"What little influence the Americans have is asserted through wary forays in armored vehicles, and by laser-guided bombs that obliterate enemy safe houses identified by scouts who penetrate militant ranks."

And the disparity between relentlessly negative coverage from shut-in reporters and reports from servicemen in the field is a matter of record:

Soldiers and Marines point to the slow, steady progress in almost all areas of Iraqi life and wonder why they don't get much notice -- or in many cases, any notice at all.

GT

Cecil,

I know you probably believed all the nonsense Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz spouted.

But the reality is different.

Les Nessman

"...you can check the latest WSJ poll." Well, if it's the LATEST poll, then more will follow.
You can wet your finger, hold it up and see which way the LATEST poll is blowing; or you can do the right thing and finish what you started by rebuilding a better Iraq. That's what we want isn't it, or do you want a failed Iraq? Sometimes I wonder if some Americans relish the idea of Iraqi failure.

We're over there, now. Wishing we never went over there is wistful fantasy at this point. Do the people who snarkily point out every setback have any constructive criticism?

ParseThis

Playing cards one recent evening while on call to respond to any outburst of violence, Lance Corporal David Goward and the rest of his squad expressed two growing concerns: that the US military will linger here indefinitely and that the troops' very presence is provoking the fighting it is meant to stop. They are ready for any battle, they said, but a pervasive sense that Iraqis do not want their help has destroyed their enthusiasm for the larger goals of launching democracy and rebuilding the country. "I don't think any of us even care what happens to this country," Goward said, as half a dozen Marines, all stationed in Ramadi, the capital of restive Anbar Province, nodded in agreement. "I'm here to make sure these guys get home safely. And they're here to make sure I do."

Please don't dishonor them when the atrocities start.

During the Vietnam War, a U.S. officer infamously announced that a town had to be destroyed in order to save it. Today, the same logic is used in Iraq. "With a heavy dose of fear and violence . . . I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," U.S. battalion commander Nathan Sassaman was quoted as saying in a New York Times article in December 2003. ... Underlying attitudes apparently haven't changed either. Captain Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, told the Times late last year, "You have to understand the Arab mind. The only thing they understand is force. . . . " Nearly 40 years earlier, in Vietnam, another U.S. captain told The New Yorker's Jonathan Schell, "Only the fear of force gets results. It's the Asian mind."

Les Nessman

The Boston Globe. The Village Voice.

Forgive me if I have less and less confidence in 'old media' sources like them. They bear a large portion of the blame of us losing in Vietnam. They are doing the same thing in Iraq.

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