Saturday, March 22, 2008

VDH And The Price Of Admission (Cont'd)

I saw a startling statistic that said that 24% of all stories in the New York Times until last year were devoted to Iraq, and this year, 3% were. I saw a column the other day, and it said, "How to resolve the quagmire." And I looked down, it was about the Democratic race.

What's happened is that the surge has changed things -- not that 30,000 men and a force of 130,000 in a country of 26 million can itself change the pulse of the battlefield, but it came as a culmination of a lot of other things. We had been fighting for four and a half years when it took hold. And we've killed over 20,000 insurgents. In the aggregate, that total is impressive.

Remember, in post-modern war, we're only allowed to talk about how much we suffer, not what we do to the enemy. For the first time in history of warfare that's been true. But we have done enormous damage to the enemy, and it's starting to now take its toll.

I read a column the other day by a really idiotic writer who said, “it’s like the kamikazes, an endless stream of insurgents.” But there was not an endless stream of them in Japan. There was about 7,000 of them; that was it. Finally, at Okinawa, they had to get people inebriated and draft English majors by force out of the university. And at least 30% of them did not reach the target, because they turned back.

There's only a finite supply of people who want to kill themselves, and we've killed a lot of them, and they kill themselves. That's helped. More importantly, we sent a message to the Iraqis. We've sent a message to the Iraqis and to the insurgents that we're not going to leave. John McCain is over there, for all of the controversies that surround him -- he does get the image across that he's a little crazy, and he does not want to leave in defeat.

And that sends a powerful message.

We also know that when oil is $108 a barrel, like it or not, that means if you're pumping two and a half million steadily, which they are, that suddenly their revenues are as if you were pumping 10 million at the old price. And to fly over Iraq today – and I did in October, and traveled all over the country for 10 days -- it's a country awash in money -- plasma TVs in Fallujah, etc. I can remember walking in Ramadi, and having people come up and want to sell sophisticated CD players that are better than the ones I see in Selma, California. And believe me, I would have rather walked in Ramadi than East L.A. in the evening.

So things are improving. And we've changed our tactic from – I guess we'd call it counter-terrorism to counter-insurgency, which helps.

What does all this mean?
It means that we're in yet another re-evaluation of the war. I think it's the fifth one. Now if this were a typical American audience, 75% of it would have been for the war. And after the statue of Saddam fell, 77% would have said, “Wow, that was my war. That's what I wanted. It was conducted brilliantly according to my own deep thinking.”

And then, when the insurgency started in 2003, especially at the end of the year, they would have said, “Wow, my perfect war was screwed up by somebody else's lousy peace.” And we got down to 55%, 50% approval by mid-2004. Then we had these unintended consequences from the disbanding of the Iraqi army, the pullback from Fallujah, the reprieve giving Muqtada Sadr free reign, et cetera. Support fell.

And then we had the Lebanon revolution, Cedar revolution, the Spring of Hope in 2005, the purple fingers, a decline in violence. And suddenly everybody was back on board; at least, the majority was.

Then we had the outbreak at the Dome of Samara in February of 2006. I was there then, too, and it was amazing to see the discouragement. And now everybody said, “No, it's not my war.” When you added Katrina and everything, Bush never recovered. And suddenly, it was an albatross; an orphaned war.

And now suddenly, the approval – I just saw the latest polls – 53% do not want a withdrawal, as the Democrats suggest. That's not unusual. If we were talking right now in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, it would have been almost exactly the same.

In February of 1862 or March of 1862, after Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson were taken, Ulysses S. Grant, the Petraeus of that era, would have been considered a genius. And this was a great idea – you could not let a separate Confederate nation exist side-by-side to a free, non-slaveholding North.

Had you had this same conversation April 8th, a day after the Battle of Shiloh – a battle in which the Union and Confederate armies suffered more dead and wounded than every battle in the history of the republic from its inception in 1776, people had turned on the war. If we had had the conversation nearly a year later, July 5th, 1863, with that brilliant victory of Grant at Vicksburg and Meade at Gettysburg, suddenly you couldn’t find anybody who had not been for that war all along.

If you fast-forward another year to that horrendous summer of 1864, when the North knew that it was one thing to repel a Southern invader and quite another to take and occupy a country the size of Western Europe, especially when that country had some of the best cavalry officers in the history of civilized warfare, and men like Nathan Bedford Forrest – but anyway, if you'd looked at that summer, think of it – Cold Harbor, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania – in that period of 90 days, the army of the Potomac was essentially wrecked, destroyed – 100,000 casualties. And you had Horace Greeley and other Northern opportunists saying the problem was not that Lincoln was going to lose to McClellan; it was that he shouldn't even run for reelection.

If you fast-forward to September 2nd, Uncle Billy Sherman took Atlanta, Phil Sheridan said he was going to turn the Shenandoah into a place where even the crows could not land and find food, and he did. Suddenly the South was humiliated, demoralized. You couldn't find anybody who was not for Lincoln all along.

That is what happens in wars. We could do the same thing with the Korean War. Everybody thought it was a great idea to draw the line against Communism, in June and July of 1950. By the time we were down to the Pusan Peninsula, they thought it was a terrible idea. It was not who didn't up-armor the Humvees, and who didn't have enough body armor; but who in his right mind would put an American in a Sherman tank against a T-34 when he had Pershing tanks? And who was responsible? We had four secretary of defenses in a period of 24 months – there was so much recrimination over that war.

And then suddenly, Douglas MacArthur does Inchon that nobody thought would work. And within two months, we're 100 miles from the Chinese border. And the question is not saving South Korea but unifying both Koreas, and home for November. Then suddenly, 750,000 Chinese come. And whose fault was that? And it's a terrible thing for the next two years, and Harry Truman's going to leave office with 22% approval rating.

And then they send another Petraean figure, General Matthew Ridgway. And suddenly it's restored, and now we think that Truman was the architect of containment and a great man.
And that's what happens in wars. Our problem is that in our utopian generation, a generation that is the beneficiary of the work of past generations whom we rarely credit, we've achieved a level of affluence and freedom and license that no other generation can even imagine. And so we feel that if things are not perfect, they're not good – so high are our expectations.

And that's how we've looked at this war. We've changed as often as we have about Hillary's chances. Remember she was a shoe-in, then she imploded after Iowa, then she was back, and it was Clinton, Incorporated. It's sort of like that killer in "No Country for Old Men" – nobody could stop her. And then suddenly, now she's toast. And now she's just sitting there with that Cheshire grin, knowing that a guy like Obama's going to mess up sometime. And that's what war is like.

So here we are, then, after the surge, with a renewed consensus that we should not withdraw precipitously, and that we probably can obtain our objectives. And what are our objectives? It was to create a constitutional state, not like Santa Barbara here, but something analogous to Kurdistan, Turkey. It may, in fact, have an elected government that doesn't like us but would not transform oil wealth into a base for terrorists, or a promulgate al-Qaeda ideology, or a state that attacked four of its neighbors, as was true in the past; or a state that would require perennial no-fly zones and corruption like Oil for Food. That's what the goal is.

And I think it's obtainable. Just look for a second at what has happened. People say, “Well, WMD weren't found, and therefore the war is illegitimate.” But we still know that they were killing the Marsh Arabs. We still know they were paying $25,000 for suicide bounties in Israel. We still know that Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, and Zarqawi and Kurdistan had al-Qaeda people there. We still know that they violated the 91 accords. We still know that they violated the UN, the $50 billion boondoggle. We still know all that.

So it achieved that strategic aim of fulfilling almost all of the Senate and House requisites for the war. We know that even in the case of WMD, whatever you want to say, we established a new barometer. You don't have to prove that you do have it; you have to prove that you don't have it.

And so what happened was, immediately Libya gave it up. I know that the Europeans are saying that careful diplomacy resulted in that. (laughter) But Quaddafi gave it up three weeks after Saddam emerged from a spider hole. And almost the same time – literally, within that six-week window – Pakistan’s Dr. A. Q. Khan shut down that nuclear laboratory and that proliferation business that had given nuclear technology to Libya, to Iran; and in collusion with Syria and North. That was shut down.

I don't believe the National Intelligence Agency estimate. But according to what it says, at almost the same time, a third strange phenomenon occurred and Iran foreswore the proliferation arm of their nuclear enterprises.

Now, the funny thing about that is, the Left says, “That can't be true; it was due to diplomacy.” But what was the diplomacy that was going on? There was none. The only diplomacy was going on was 160,000 Americans were in Iraq. And so, even that has proven to be of some advantage.

We could argue all day over what the recent Pentagon evaluation of al-Qaeda and terrorism in Iraq actually means. I think Steven Hayes has sort of resolved that al-Qaeda was in Iraq. But nevertheless, think a minute. Who in their right mind would have said, “You're going to go into the heart of the ancient Caliphate, 7,000 miles from the United States, and you're going to on neutral ground engage al-Qaeda, and you're going to kill 20,000 insurgents, ex-Baathist al-Qaedas -- but more importantly, you're going to establish the principle that Wahabism is not only unpopular, but its natural constituency in Iraq – that is, the Sunnis of Anwar Province--will reject it to such a degree that they will join you in eradicating it.”

But that's where we are today.

That's a phenomenal development. And it's had a very positive effect on our own security. Think for a minute – when this war broke out, the Europeans said, “This is stupid, we want no part of it.” Jacques Chirac toured North Africa to assure everybody of his pro-Arab bona fides, Schroeder in Germany said things that were almost as critical of us as what bin Laden had said.

And the Europeans said, “You're going to pay a big price.”

In the last five years of war, we have not been hit. The Europeans have been hit from Madrid to London. Today, they're burning effigies of Europeans; there are protests all across the Middle East over the Danish cartoons.

If you're a European today, the very notion that you can write a novel, you can put on an opera, that you can draw a cartoon, that you can have an honest, free expression in a philosophy class in France, or yes, a Pope, symbol of Christendom – that you can talk about all this without fearing for your life – is all of that suspect?

In other words, the whole fruit of the Western enlightenment that so many thousands of Europeans have died for is now put in jeopardy by people who in 2003 said that that onus would fall on us, not them.

Because there's an older law in human nature that says, if you give the impression that you're affluent and you're indulgent, and you're weak, and you don't really want to defend your culture or your civilization, you're more vulnerable, not less. Whatever we think – this is what gets somebody fired at any university in the United States – the truth is, if you talk to somebody in the Middle East and they see the United States not only believes in something, but is crazy enough to defend it, it is a less likely, not a more likely, target.

It almost refutes the whole engine of modern liberalism that says that the more therapeutic and the more conciliatory, and the more diplomatic you express yourself, the more likely you're going to be safe. There's an older law that's primordial – I guess it's in the limbic system of our brain – that says that's not true.

I gave a talk not long ago at a university, and somebody said, “Well, look at the cost: 4,000 lives – you got blood on your hands – and a trillion dollars.” I think that's terrible that we have these costs. But let's talk about the terrible cost. And it is terrible.

But we lost as many people in Iraq in five years that this country lost in two weeks at the Battle of Guam in World War II. We lost as many in five years as we did in 10 days at Sugar Loaf Hill in Okinawa. I know we spent $1 trillion -- that's a terrible amount of money.

But this economy is a $13 trillion economy per year. Since the moment we invaded Iraq, we have created $60 trillion in wealth. So we spent one 60th of our national wealth these last five years as an investment to change the entire landscape of the Middle East and to make ourselves safer. And I think we have. And the proof of the pudding is we have not been attacked.

The people who said that we would be attacked, and that we would lose popularity in the Middle East, have been wrong, because the people who are the natural constituents of al-Qaeda have rejected them.

The latest Pew poll in June, 2007 was quite astounding. The countries where we're most unpopular are the countries whose dictators we subsidize the most – Saudi Arabia and Pakistan –not Iraq and Afghanistan, the only two countries in the world where people get up every day and join a constitutional process to kill terrorists.

And more importantly, if you look at the same poll, bin Laden's favorable rating fell – not rose – 30 points. You don't hear anybody talking about that. We were told that if we went into the heart of Iraq, we were going to so offend Muslims that they're going to naturally flock to al-Qaeda.

Maybe in the short term, but then why in the Pew poll did the favorable rating across 21 Middle Eastern countries of bin Laden fall from 55% to 31%, and more importantly the approval of suicide bombing fall even more precipitously?

Only in Palestine is there a majority of people who approve of suicide bombing. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see why that's true.

So almost every complaint against this war is not accurate.



Dr.John said...

Right on brother. Right on.

JMK said...

"So almost every complaint against this war is not accurate." (Victor)

That's true and it's largely because MOST people are NOT engaged in politics and current events and the Left has done its best to turn a national security issue into a political issue.

And you know what?

They've largely succeeded and they're still not happy, because they haven't turned it into another Vietnam.

That's why the anger against Talk Radio and FoxNews has intensified lately. The Left preceives that those two venues have "poisoned their well" countering their lies.

Your opening statements prove Bill O'Reilly right. He said, before the surge, that it was going to be a no-win situtation. "If the surge fails, they'll be all over it, to slime both the current administration and the military. If it works, they'll simply ignore it."

He was right, they've ignored it, while still continuing to throw it out there as an issue of "Executive incompetence."

The WSJ reported that the little junkett that Congressment Boniors, McDermott and Thompson went on to Iraq, back in late 2002 (the one where McDermott, especially made a fool of himself excoriating any talk of invasion) was financed by Saddam Hussein.

The AP and the NY Times used photographs from "freelancers" embedded with....the terrorists! I think the proper term for those creatures is "terrorist with a camera."

You don't need much more on whic to indict the American Left, which has gone on an orgy of anti-Americanism over the last six years.

They've proven that they are very much the enemy within our own borders.