Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Biggest Round-heel Of Them All

Dean Barnett takes note of Bill Kristol's newest in the Weekly Standard. News coming out of DC is that the president is about to begin negotiations with the "Round-Heel caucus" within the GOP. Those senators -- Domenici, Lugar, Warner, and Voinovich -- have decided that enough is enough, and it is time to begin a departure from Iraq:

The New York Times leads today with David Sanger's story, "In White House, Debate Is Rising On Iraq Pullback; Political Considerations; Not Waiting For Sept. 15, Aides Seek to Forestall G.O.P. Defections." The piece is tendentious, as one would expect--but THE WEEKLY STANDARD has confirmed that there are real discussions going on the White House, with advocates of what is being called "The Grand Bargain" pushing hard for the president to move soon to announce plans to pull back in Iraq. So this week will not only be a week of (mostly silly) debate on the Hill; it will also be an important moment of truth for the president, who will have to decide whether to give Gen. Petraeus and the soldiers a chance, or to accept the counsel of some of his advisers and begin to throw in the towel on Iraq.

Let me be clear: The president ordered the "surge," which only recently came to full strength and whose major operation has been going on for less than a month. If he were not to give it a chance to work, he would properly be viewed as a feckless, irresolute president, incapable of seeing his own strategy through a couple of months of controversy before abandoning it. He will have asked our soldiers to go on the offensive, assuming greater risk of casualties--and then, even though the offensive is working better than expected, will have pulled the plug on their efforts.

Indeed, the White House is living in a fool's paradise if they imagine that "compromising" now and in this way buys them anything. Even the New York Times editorial page has abandoned the pretence that its preferred strategy will lead to anything other than catastrophe in Iraq, and in the very near term. If the president gives in now, he will not be credited with a statesmanlike compromise. He will be lambasted by the left for fighting a bad war, and by the right for fighting it badly, recommitting us to the fight, and then losing it. The remainder of his term will be mired in congressional investigations as the waters fill with blood and the sharks go in for the kill. The Democrats will be emboldened to press him on every front, especially since Iraq is virtually the only position he's actually been defending. Lame duck does not even begin to describe where President Bush will be if he does this.

Indeed, it would be a disaster to even give the pretense of wanting to compromise on this particular issue. The war -- our fight against radical Islam -- is the single most important point that this nation should be focused on. Maybe he is tired, as tired of this war as the nation is, and he is ready to throw in the towel. I must concur with Mr. Kristol that making such a compromise will not paint him in a good light by anyone's standards. He has made the war the focal point of his presidency, and to withdraw now -- to compromise with those that simply do not understand what this war is about, and are even more feckless than he is -- will send a message to our enemies abroad that they have won.

They will, within weeks of our departure, hang a sign on the outskirts of Baghdad that reads "Islamofascists welcome!" and we will abandon a fledgling nation to the wolves. No nation on the face of the planet will ever accept the word of the United States that we will not abandon you. Politics is politics, and in war it has no place. When a nation goes to war, it seeks to destroy the enemy and it's capacity to fight. We have made mistakes in Iraq, but the Surge is not one of them. At full capacity now, it is showing signs of success. But to throw the towel in now, even before General Petreus gives his preliminary report, is simply asinine.

This is a sincere mistake on his part, and I am surprised his advisors have not thoroughly warned him of this fool's errand. He has enjoyed silent support from those that understand what this war is about. Furthermore, tghe respect that he has earned from the military and their families will quickly fade. If he does make this move, his presidency will be at an end. Lame duck is an understatement. It will be more like a dead duck.


ADDENDUM: US Ambassador to Iraq had a pointed warning for the "Round-Heel caucus" over the weekend:

The American ambassador to Iraq has urged policy makers in Washington to give "some very, very serious thought" to the consequences that could follow an early reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, warning of a surge in sectarian killings in which civilians "by the thousands" could die.

The ambassador, Ryan Crocker, laid out his grim forecast two months ahead of a pivotal assessment of progress in the war that he and the American military commander in Iraq are scheduled to make to the White House and Congress.

Congress is scheduled to renew debate on the question of withdrawal this week, as four more Republican senators have declared they can no longer support President George W. Bush's strategy, and administration officials debate whether Bush should announce his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops to forestall more defections.

"You can't build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you've really got to account for it," Crocker said in an interview on Saturday at his office in Saddam Hussein's old Republican palace, now the seat of American power in Iraq. ...

"In the States, it's like we're in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we're done here and the credits come up and the lights come on and we leave the theater and go on to something else," he said. "Whereas out here, you're just getting into the first reel of five reels" he added, "and as ugly as the first reel has been, the other four-and-a-half are going to be way, way worse."

He continued: "And you've got to give some very, very serious thought to ways it could be worse," including "sectarian violence on a level we just haven't seen before" that could escalate if American troops are not available to restrain the killing.

"You have to look at what the consequences would be, and you look at those who say we could have bases elsewhere in the country - well yes, we could, but we would have the prospect of American forces looking on while civilians by the thousands were slaughtered. Not a pretty prospect."

This is just part of the equation involved in an early withdrawal. I do not think the American people want to see the sectarian violence that would occur from our pull-out. And if people think we will not see it, think again. the mantra of the MSM is "If it bleeds, it leads." An early withdrawal will give the media the blood it needs to spurn the Left forward to go after President Bush with everything they have. None of us want to see a replay of the end of the Vietnam War, or the rise of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Those were bloodbaths, and Iraq could turn into that very quickly with our departure.

Of course the other thing that must be taken into consideration with regard to the war is that if we pull out of Iraq, how long will it be before the cut-and-run caucus starts calling for withdrawal in Afghanistan? There are already rumblings on the Hill from a few people in Congress considering that sort of a strategy. If we withdraw from Iraq, the enemy will have a brand-new base of operations in the mMiddle East, and they will be bolstered by Iran and Syria.

this is not the time to be arguing about this. The president needs to stay on task, let the surge work, and hopefully when General Petreus gives his report in September, there is a clear sign of success that he can point to. But those calling for withdrawal, or are entertaining the idea, need to be patient. War is not a cut-and-dry issue. It is nasty, and it takes time.



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