Carol Platt Liebau: The Democratic View of the Military

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Democratic View of the Military

Tonight, during my weekly debate on Al Rantel's radio show on KABC, my Democratic opponent dismissed General Petraeus' report before even hearing it, and essentially said that the General would simply mouth Bush Administration talking points about success in Iraq. "Petraeus is Arabic for Westmoreland," he insisted, referencing the Vietnam War general who was accused by CBS of misleading the public with false good news about the war.

That's a terrible slander on a good man. My opponent was effectively accusing General Petraeus of being willing to allow his own men to be killed simply to help the Bush Administration achieve its political objectives.

But hey, that's consistent with the Democratic view of the military in general. Just today, Charles Schumer made a despicable statement about the military's progress in Anbar (HT: Radioblogger):

[T]he violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from al Qaeda said to these tribes we have to fight al Qaeda ourselves. It wasn't that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here, created a temporary peace here. And that is because there was no one else there protecting.

Get it? Schumer asserts that despite the incompetence of the US army, conditions are improving only because the tribes become desperate enough to work together -- that Iraqis were able to create peace where our fighting men and women abjectly failed.

No wonder the American people see Democratic politicians as largely anti-military. With a few honorable exceptions, they are.


Blogger Greg said...

The Democrats are following the plan I said they would yesterday:

1. Do everything possible to ensure "victory" does not occur, namely surrender now!

2. Make sure that nothing remotely associated with a term like "victory" occurs in the next 12 months.

3. Make sure that no matter what happens in Iraq it is not labelled a "clear victory".

It cannot be denied, the Democrats are ACTIVELY fighting AGAINST our military men and women in Iraq!

This will not be forgotten.

5:25 AM  
Blogger Jesse said...

All the people who are saying that "The 'surge' is working really don't get it. I have no doubt that the 'surge' is bringing some stability and security to areas of Iraq where there are more American soldiers. Unfortunately, that's TOTALLY IRRELEVANT, unless the plan is to see American soldiers stationed in Iraq forever. The WHOLE POINT of the 'surge,' as stated by Bush and the Republicans, was to create the political space for Sunni-Shi'a reconciliation, so that a functioning Iraqi government and military could emerge. That has absolutely failed to happen, because the Iraqis are more mired than ever in their ancient hatreds and their modern addiction to violent thuggery.

Yes, there is progress in Anbar, where the tribes have united against the faction that calls itself al-Qaeda in Iraq (quite separate from the real al-Qaeda, contra Bush, desperate as he is for a justification of the Iraq war, and aware of his own utter incompetence in pursuing our primary enemy in Pakistan and Afghanistan.) But that has far more to do with Qaeda brutality and overreaching than with our troops, although we did help by giving the tribes some weapons (which may well be used against our troops soon, and they are well aware of this possibility.) We didn't win in Anbar; al-Qaeda lost. Check out Thomas Friedman's piece on what's happening now in Iraq. I don't always agree with him, but in this case he really gets it right.

By the way, I supported the war, and I still believe that it was the right thing to do to overthrow Saddam, because I believe that we should stand up to tyranny whenever possible. But I have been appalled by the Bush peoples' utter incompetence and utter lack of interest in history, psychology, or strategy; they have relied on, and continue to rely on, magical thinking in Iraq (well what do you expect from a man who is always talking about "the Almighty's plan for humanity"?) Iraq didn't have to be the disaster that it has turned out to be; it was a great opportunity squandered by a strutting, narcissistic little boy who can't admit even his own most obvious mistakes. It is, and continues to be, a vanity war for Bush. That is truly disgusting, that people are dying because of this man's ego.

And yet I do not want to walk away from Iraq. I want to stay and protect the people to whom we promised so much and delivered so little, at least until it becomes more clear whether or not they are able to function as a nation. But I'm not fooled by the talk of the 'success' of the 'surge.' It's really just more magical thinking, unless you can explain to me how the presence of American troops is accomplishing anything for the long-term -- not just the short term.

One last thing: It's despicable of Carol to accuse the democrats of playing politics with the war (as if Bush isn't). It is not blind anti-Bush politics to see that the 'surge' is a con job, for the excellent reasons given above. It's clear strategic thinking, something Bush lacks, and will continue to lack so long as he insists on doing things like writing the Petraeus report himself (and by the way, isn't it infuriating how that silly little boy insists on calling Gen. Petraeus "David" in his press conferences? And how he blames Tommy Franks for all the problems in Iraq, even while he insists that he himself is the "Decider"? Where's the responsibility?) Petraeus is an excellent general indeed; but he's letting himself be used as Bush's puppet, just as Colin Powell did. The reputations of both men will suffer.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Two comments:

First, we have another example of the "One, two, many" thinking. Carol offers us two quotes from two people (only one of whom is a politician) and then extrapolates from those two quotes to the preposterous statement that all (with a few honorable exceptions) Democratic politicians are anti-military.

What utter absurdity!

Second, I'd like to express my deep gratitude to Jesse for offering some real analysis, rather than the ignorant posturing that so often fills this blog. I disagree with some of the sentiments expressed, but I know that I can disagree productively, in a manner that I can learn from. So, thanks, Jesse!

8:56 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Jesse said,

"The WHOLE POINT of the 'surge,' as stated by Bush and the Republicans, was to create the political space for Sunni-Shi'a reconciliation, so that a functioning Iraqi government and military could emerge."

That, and to eliminate as many terrorists as possible. But the key word in the above statement is "emerge". That IS NOT the same as "to suddenly appear".

How long has the surge been in place? By any historical standard, has that been enough time for "functioning Iraqi government" to emerge?

Jesse also says,

" in Iraq (quite separate from the real al-Qaeda, ..."

Does that mean al-Qaeda in Indonesia is not really al-Qaeda? Who is the 'real' al-Qaeda? Perhaps the terrorists who struck America weren't really al-Qaeda since they were in America at the time instead of Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Then there's this:

"We didn't win in Anbar; al-Qaeda lost."

Um, OK. And Appalachian State didn't really win in Michigan; the Woverines lost. See point #3 in my post above.

"Iraq didn't have to be the disaster that it has turned out to be;..."

What Iraq will "turn out to be" has not actually "turned out" yet. Don't you think you're jumping the gun a bit, Jesse?

I do respect this comment from Jesse, though:

"And yet I do not want to walk away from Iraq. I want to stay and protect the people to whom we promised so much and delivered so little, at least until it becomes more clear whether or not they are able to function as a nation."

Maybe this is the part of Jesse's post that Chepe has a problem with.

What Democrat who advocates surrender in Iraq has addressed the consequences of his/her proposed action?

"It is not blind anti-Bush politics to see that the 'surge' is a con job, for the excellent reasons given above."

Heh. I sometimes get a little puffed up with pride after posting what I think was a stream of brilliance. But I usually don't actually pat myself on the back within my own post. And for good reason! It's almost a given that someone will find holes in my argument(s) (or at least valid opposing points of view).

"Petraeus is an excellent general indeed; but he's letting himself be used as Bush's puppet, just as Colin Powell did. The reputations of both men will suffer."

Are you suggesting a change in chain of command?

10:13 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Another problem with the parameters set by the Congressional Democrats for the GAO report is not so much what is asked in the report, but what is NOT.

Bill Kristol puts it this way:

"And what are the benchmarks that Congress set up? Do they include criteria that matter? No. Grassroots political progress? Not in the GAO report. The turn of the Sunnis against the insurgency? Not in the GAO report. The stabilization of Anbar province? Not in the GAO report. And progress against al Qaeda--the single most vital and direct American national interest in Iraq? Not in the GAO report."

If you're going to use a report or study as a basis for an argument concerning the situation in Iraq, don't you think it wise to include some of the most important developments in Iraq in that report or study?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Greg, you are arguing for more time in several places. We haven't had enough time to properly evaluate the situation, you write. The problem with this approach is that it has already been used. The whole point of the Congressional objectives was that people were tired of an open-ended commitment; they wanted some way of determining whether the investment in Iraq was paying off. Moreover, they didn't want vague hand-waving -- they wanted something specific that could be determined clearly.

This is Bill Krystol's mistake -- he's saying that the precise standards don't count and we should instead be relying on vague notions that cannot be used as standards. You quote him as wanting to include the progress against al Qaeda. How does one assess that progress? By simply quoting military leaders who say that "victory is just around the corner"? Don't you think we need some sort of objective, independent assessment?

For four and a half years now we have been promised that "victory is just around the corner" and that "the troops will be coming home real soon now." After four and a half years of this, things now are no better than they were earlier, and certainly worse than they were in 2004.

And here you are telling us that "victory is just around the corner". If only we'd just have a little more patience, give it a little more time, we'll win this war.

Anybody with a knowledge of history could have told you back in 2003 that this would turn out badly. But we ignored the lessons of history and charged straight into this disaster. Now you're hoping that empirical results will someday disprove the historical expectations. Yet now even the empirical results are negative.

How do we know that, three months from now, when little has changed, you won't still be touting some successes as proof of your thesis, while ignoring failures? How do we know that you would EVER change your position despite the continuing accumulation of evidence?

Back in January, these same questions were being asked, and the hawks in Congress agreed to the standards reported on by the GAO as indicative of progress. That was the deal: give us another nine months of support and we'll reconsider later based on the ongoing findings of the GAO. Now that those findings are coming back negative, there are still some die-hards who insist on seeing victory where everybody sees only blood.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Bachbone said...

Chepe (finally) comes close to one of the Left's standard canards by characterizing comments (i.e., commenters?), by anyone other than those with which he agrees, naturally, as "...ignorant posturing... and later, "Anybody with a knowledge of history ..." The Left sooner or later generally gets around to telling us stooopid conservatives that if only we would see the light, agree with it and believe the sources it believes, we'd become Mensa candidates overnight.

Jesse, wipe the froth off your chin -your BDS is showing. What evidence do you possess that Pres. Bush didn't ask Gen. Petraeus for permission to refer to him by his first name in public? I'd wager the general would prefer "David" to what some leadership Democrats said about him several months ago. (We already have had Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi in April saying they wouldn't believe wat the general told them.) And what evidence have you that Gen. Petraeus will allow his report to be rewrtten to contain things he doesn't believe? He's going to be testifying before Congress, so if he allowed that, wouldn't it be rather obvious?

Next, since one huge objective of the military has been to train Iraqis to be able to protect themselves so our forces can be withdrawn, why is it so terrible that Anbar now fends for itself, albeit with our backup? You cite the NYTimes' Friedman as your expert on why all this will crumble, but Friedman has no crystal ball. And given who employs him, that alone ought to be reason enough to cast doubt on his views. Instead, take a look at what Martin Fletcher, a strong critic of the war, says here. Yes, indeed, there are future Sunni-Shia potential problems to be closely watched, but it was the US military prodding behind the scenes that helped Ramadi and Anbar sheikhs get up the will to oppose the outsiders.

Next, I googled "magical thinking and George Bush." Jesse, you really ought to consider reading more than Huffpo, the NYTimes, BBC News, and the rest of the BDS-infected crowd. And just incidentally, it's pretty common knowledge that Pres. Bush believes in God, but what evidence do you possess that shows he listens to God's war plans and not military generals'? Also, are you saying that God doesn't have a plan for humanity?

Saying that Pres. Bush "...blame[d]Tommy Franks for all the problems in Iraq... is at least a little disingenuous, isn't it? The news conference in which a questions was asked took place 7-13-2007. In his answer, Pres. Bush said Gen. Franks, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military commanders responsible for different operations were all consulted and said they had enough of what they needed to do the job. Military plans and operations are notorious for going wrong. "Anybody with a knowledge" of military campaigns knows that. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist that. We conservative dunderheads sometimes plagiarize our liberal brethren.) Now, some liberal seers claim that former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was such a bad-a**ed dude that the generals caved in to his will, thus answered Bush as they did. But Gen. Franks said in his book, "American Soldier," that he went to Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Myers and told them he would resign his position as Centcom commander and Iraq invasion planner if he did not get complete freedom to do what was needed. He was given that assurance and stayed on. Gen. Franks may deserve blame, but Pres. Bush was not assigning it to him. He was stating facts.

We know that bin Laden has based much of his strategy on the fact that Pres. Clinton cut and ran out of Somalia after US Rangers were denied the tanks they requested from the late Sec. Aspin, were subsequently killed and the pictures shown every 10 minutes on American TV. We also know from documents captured that bin Laden's henchmen in Iraq were complaining that their tactics had not driven the US out. So, bin Laden and his planners likely are thinking they just need to kill more people for a longer time, and the US will again get tired and pull out. You think it "...disgusting, that people are dying because of [Pres. Bush's]ego." How many people, Iraqis and US military, are dying because the Left side of the aisle in Congress, such as Rep. Murtha, Sen. Durbin, Sen. Reid, Rep. Pelosi
Sen. Levin, Sen. Kennedy, Sen. Obama, Sen. Schumer, and the Left's current favorite, Sen. Warner, are all over the news telling bin Laden that the war is unwinnable? Some of us stoopid conservatives think that is despicable and disgusting.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Mr. Bachbone, if you think that you have a knowledge of history that counters my claim regarding the likely outcome of the invasion of Iraq, please present it. I suggest that we concentrate on the issues.

You offer some useful commentary on the internal dynamics of the Bush Administration, but you definitely get one thing wrong: the troop levels required for the invasion. Conventional counter-insurgency theory calls for a ratio of troops to population of about 1:50 to keep order; for Iraq, that would have meant about 500,000 troops. This was the number initially proposed by the Joint Chiefs, but it was overruled by Mr. Rumsfeld. I don't have the references on this at hand but I can provide them if you find this information difficult to believe.

Lastly, you find "despicable and disgusting" the exercise of First Amendment rights in a patriotic attempt to help America find a solution to the problems of Iraq. I don't think that democracy is despicable and disgusting. I think that it is boisterous, confusing, and intellectually challenging. And it sure beats the kind of totalitarianism that suppresses open debate.

9:26 AM  

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