Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Is Success In Iraq? Has Petraeus Won the War?

In Howard Kurtz's latest column, he quotes Christopher Hitchens as saying that the American left does not want to see U.S. success in Iraq. As a citizen who leans decidedly left in the Iraq War and can go on record as firmly supporting our troops - if not their neoconservative-flavored mission - I find this kind of statement to be personally defamatory and intellectually dishonest. I'm all for a nation that works together with a clear and informed eye in the hopes of formulating a better direction in our foreign policy. The divisive commentary of Mr. Hitchens is not welcome in my world. Every straight-thinking individual understands that any measure of overall American success in Iraq, in the end, will have been destined to be "in the eye of the beholder" and won't have been measured by any one benchmark met or by any one particular military surge in one isolated area of Iraq. Hitchens saying that anyone leaning (understandably, in my view) left on the Iraq war 'doesn't want success' says more, in my opinion, about Mr. Hitchen's political disdain for the left on the subject of a failed policy he's championed, embarrassingly at times, than it says for reality-based psychology on the left regarding U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.

There Are Wars and Rumors of Wars Yet to Come Within Iraq

Look at Iraq as it stands today. Kirkuk remains a powderkeg, its rich oil resources stuck in the focus of the lusting pupils of the oil companies. The Kurdish question hangs over us like a descending balloon made of more lead than a Chinese toy. A recent New Yorker piece titled 'Letter from Iraq: Inside the Surge', by Jon Lee Anderson forewarns us that there is a Shia-on-Shia civil war likely yet to come - fueled by the United States in their covert war with Iran for which the word "dipomacy" has fallen flat and the resulting and damaging influence of extremism in the region has been a result. This is far from over. Iraq will take decades to work themselves toward a government and political solution of their choosing. I suspect there will be years of civil war and political upheaval. The important thing is helping our leaders to understand that we believe real success will come only when we end our occupation and engage, encourage and convince all nations in the region to eschew extremism.

In the Face of Today's Realties in Iraq, Americans Deserve Better Than An MSM Good-News Surge

The facts and figures with which the mainstream press, including the influential New York Times, is barraging the American public in a recent 'good-news surge' has me remaining rationally skeptical. I watched the New York Times, wittingly or not, politically help the Bush administration to reach a tipping point on favorable public opinion in regard to making pre-emptive war in Iraq in 2002. That unfortunate cheerleading-warm-up-by-media is now and will likely remain a decided black mark on the Times' (and most of their media followers') record for investigative credibility.

Tell me why I should trust the New York Times headline telling me that things are better now when I know that, even if U.S. combat troops were pulled out in six months to a year (and I think there's no better alternative), that there has been careful deception played out on the army of General Petraeus by those who have tribal vendettas to settle in the name of supporting U.S. troops in places like Ghazaliya - these vendettas having nothing to do with al Qaeda in Iraq. Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker recently told the story of just one new Iraqi recruit who decided to support the U.S. so that he could cut body parts off the remains of 100 men from the Mahdi Army he'd sworn to kill in order to avenge his dead brother.

When I think about success in Iraq, I could never wrap a moral fabric around what I see is the advantage of using the culture, the anger, and the sorrow of those embroiled in a civil war of which my own countrymen have no complete cultural knowledge and of which, regarding foreign policy, my country is implict in fomenting civil war in order to achieve politically-sought acceptance of the so-called success.

Political Success? What Political Success?

Bear in mind that we haven't even begun to talk about the absence of political success here. That's another story altogether.. and most recently was discussed last night by Juan Cole and Feisal Istrabadi on Jim Lehrer's News Hour on PBS.

Newsroom Editors Should Be Capable of Asking Readers to Think More Critically Than the Bush Administration Asks of the Public

How does a mainstream news editorial staff put this kind of hard truth down in an editorial? How do they resist becoming the stenopads they allowed themselves to become in 2002? Do they exist and do their jobs exist only to make this war as morally palatable as possible? Do they realze that the many of the Sunnis we praise today for their support in the surge want to see the Shi'ites cleansed from Baghdad? Do they make the public understand that the Bush administration is so worried about the Republican party maintaining control in the 2008 presidential election that their need to find the cheapest kind of success is urgent to them? To be able to draw down troops in time for the next big election, they're all too willing to allow the military to accept their newfound Sunni allies in the surge at face value..without adequately checking their backgrounds? Have we forgotten about a man named Curveball, the shady character of whom the Bush administration all too willingly allowed to lead the way with false intelligence in the rush to war in Iraq?

But Really - What's Reality, Anyhow?

Howard Kurtz points to a blogger at RedState named Pejman Yousefzadeh who wonders out-loud,
..why it is that the 'reality-based community' hasn't taken much notice of these improvements. Or why it wants once again to short-circuit them with yet another debate over withdrawal that is destined to fail being planned in Congress."

I'd suggest to Mr. Yousefzadeh that reality, in the end, is not always easy to face when anyone, including himself, has a ideological log ripping out their eye. He seems to see the debate about U.S. troop withdrawal as the old red-herring (enforced by too many false-framers) called 'surrender and disengage.' That's the farthest result that I'd expect a new and clear-eyed focus on a change of course on U.S. foreign policy would have the capacity to achieve. Where Mr. Yousefzadeh sees the glass as empty on a new foreign policy focus on Iraq, I see it as full of chances for a more lasting and socially just success - not only for Iraq and the United States, but for the better interests of the entire region.

Temporary stability has been achieved by General Petraeus in such a way that his men and women can do their best to say, with pride, that they found a way to succeed for their Commander in Chief. What they're doing has been done so that they can come back home with honor. General Petraeus has my respect, and I understand that he's had a tough job to do and that the policy that has failed to bring about an Iraqi political solution has never been his foreign policy.

He Did What Was Asked. Now Let's Put People Like Petraeus Where They Can Be of Best Use..With the Best Civilian Leadership

I long to see General Petraeus in a place where he can make the best difference for all of us, and I don't think it's where he is today. I somehow trust that he'd agree with me on this point where many decidedly misguided right-leaning bloggers would not. My words stand in black and white before my readers. I'm secure in knowing that General Petraeus - and others like him - are out there. They deserve new and wiser civilian leadership with an eye on true, meaningful, and lasting success.