Moving forward in Iraq — the one good idea

The Wonderland of Washington, driven by polls and 24/7 TV, is its own, separate reality. Unfortunately, the TV-watching public and partisan activists think it’s the reality.

Meanwhile, over in Iraq, the surge is doing what it was intended to do, as this piece back on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal — under the appropriate headline, "Moving Forward in Iraq" — reports:

    In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality. And as Congress prepares for a fresh debate on Iraq, the perception many members have is that the new strategy has already failed.
    This isn’t an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.
    This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?

That’s the way it starts. I hope the link works so that you can read the whole thing. The next  10 or so paragraphs go into greater detail about the ways in which the surge is working. The author, Kimberly Kagan, is "an affiliate of Harvard’s John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, is executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. She even tries to express some optimism about Mr. Maliki’s efforts to achieve the strategic aim of the surge, a political solution. That part is somewhat less convincing. But the part about what our military is achieving is convincing.

What would be wonderful — what we owe our troops — is to praise and applaud and encourage what they are accomplishing. But that’s not what we’re doing back in this country, is it?

The piece ends this way:

    This is war, and the enemy is reacting. The enemy uses
suicide bombs, car bombs and brutal executions to break our will and
that of our Iraqi allies. American casualties often increase as troops
move into areas that the enemy has fortified; these casualties will
start to fall again once the enemy positions are destroyed. Al Qaeda
will manage to get some car and truck bombs through, particularly in
areas well-removed from the capital and its belts.
    But we should not allow individual atrocities to
obscure the larger picture. A new campaign has just begun, it is
already yielding important results, and its effects are increasing
daily. Demands for withdrawal are no longer demands to pull out of a
deteriorating situation with little hope; they are now demands to end a
new approach to this conflict that shows every sign of succeeding.

Indeed. And that demand is coming from both Democrats and Republicans. What is happening in this country is an appalling spectacle.

52 thoughts on “Moving forward in Iraq — the one good idea

  1. Tom Robinson

    I thought that name was familiar, and so I did a little searching. I found a lot of references to her, but one in particular stands out in my mind, from something called George Mason University’s History News Network. There’s an article there about her and her work on reviewing the surge strategy, with this headline:
    “Kimberly Kagan: Wife of Frederick Kagan to monitor plan her husband devised”

  2. bud

    Brad, it’s time to give it up. The American people are now leaving the Washington politicians only two options for Iraq. (1) Gradual withdrawal over a 1-2 year period, or (2) Rapid withdrawal within 6 months or less. They understand that only PARTISANS believe the surge is working. They understand the security situation has not improved. They understand Americans are dying in record numbers (100+ in 3 straight months). Here are today’s security headlines from Reuters:
    GARMA – At least seven members of one family were killed when gunmen broke into their house in Garma, west of Baghdad, and planted explosives inside and blew it up, police said.
    * SAMARRA – The mayor of Samarra, a mainly Sunni city 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, was shot dead, police said.
    BAGHDAD – Police found 26 bodies in Baghdad on Tuesday. Most had been shot, victims of sectarian death squads.
    TIKRIT – U.S. soldiers handed over 12 bodies to the general hospital in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad on Tuesday, said Iyada al- Jugheifi, head of the hospital’s morgue. It was unclear how the people died.
    BAGHDAD – At least four policemen were killed and two others wounded when gunmen attacked their patrol in northern Baghdad on Tuesday evening, police said.
    ISKANDARIYA – At least two people were killed and 17 wounded when four mortar bombs landed in a residential area in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad on Tuesday evening, police said.
    ISKANDARIYA – Gunmen killed a civil servant when they broke into his home in Iskandariya on Tuesday evening, police said.
    BAGHDAD – Gunmen attacked a police commando checkpoint, killing one policeman in the Saidiya district of southern Baghdad on Tuesday, police said. Eight civilians were wounded.
    FALLUJA – A suicide motorcycle bomber attacked a police patrol on Tuesday, wounding two policemen in Falluja, 50 km (32 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.
    HASWA – Police found two bodies showing signs of torture in Haswa, 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
    DIWANIYA – Gunmen killed a policeman inside his car in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad on Tuesday, police said.
    NAJAF – Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a police intelligence officer in northern Najaf on Tuesday evening, police said.

  3. Harry

    “Appalling spectacle!” Let me describe an appalling spectacle. Four years of war involving the greatest power on Earth in a country with fewer people than Texas. Worldwide disdain for American diplomacy and resentment of American power. Over 3500 Americans killed; probably 20,000 seriously wounded. Over 500 billion dollars spent to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Halliburton as the major contractor (no bid) for a reconstruction that has barely had any impact. World oil prices at 3 times 2000 levels. Gasoline prices at 3 times… still no appreciable Iraqi oil. Bush and Cheney affiliated companies over-flush with cash and other war/energy related gains. The ignoring of the military and diplomacy-based Iraq Study Group report – only to be forced into its major recommendations by conditions months later than needed. Attempts to win this war wholely by military means are degrading our military, our treasury, and our sense of common purpose. Joe Biden was right in 2003 and is right now – “Bush, the Squanderer.” That is what is appalling.

  4. Doug Ross

    Were you waving a flag and baking an apple pie when you wrote that entry? Sheesh… what is appalling is watching the last throes of the war mongers try to spin a debacle into a victory.
    Bush is already setting up the easy way out of Iraq – blame the Iraqis for their failure to create a stable government out of the turmoil we created.
    This from an AP article about Republican Senator Olympia Snowe’s proposal to set a timeline for withdrawal by next April:
    “The visit came as the White House finalized a 23-page progress report on Iraq that concludes the government in Baghdad has made little progress in meeting reform goals laid down by Bush and Congress.”
    It’s pretty easy to read the tea leaves… Bush will incrementally increase the rhetoric blaming Iraqis as more Republican Senators hop off the bandwagon. The RNC will tell Bush that “for the good of the party in 2008, we need to bring the troops home.” Bush, being the ultimate party guy, will make a token effort to hold the line until about January, when he will declare victory (again) and start the withdrawal.

  5. Harry

    “Appalling spectacle!” Let me describe an appalling spectacle. Four years of war involving the greatest power on Earth in a country with fewer people than Texas. Worldwide disdain for American diplomacy and resentment of American power. Over 3500 Americans killed; probably 20,000 seriously wounded. Over 500 billion dollars spent to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Halliburton as the major contractor (no bid) for a reconstruction that has barely had any impact. World oil prices at 3 times 2000 levels. Gasoline prices at 3 times… still no appreciable Iraqi oil. Bush and Cheney affiliated companies over-flush with cash and other war/energy related gains. The ignoring of the military and diplomacy-based Iraq Study Group report – only to be forced into its major recommendations by conditions months later than needed. Attempts to win this war wholely by military means are degrading our military, our treasury, and our sense of common purpose. Joe Biden was right in 2003 and is right now – “Bush, the Squanderer.” That is what is appalling.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Thanks for the heads-up, Tom. For everyone else, here’s a link to the item he mentions.

    So you can say they’re sort of like the mutually-affirming duo of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, if you are so inclined.

    But then, what have you got? Does a valid argument — whether it’s an intel report from Africa or a an op-ed piece (and the "monitoring" to which Tom refers was nothing official, but reports for The Weekly Standard) — become INvalid because of who you are married to? I find the connection interesting now that I see it, but how does it mean anything?

    What she said made perfect sense this morning, and it still does. I don’t care if she’s Gen. Petraeus’ secret girlfriend. (Actually, though, if she were, it might give us a valuable perspective. And what’s this I hear about him and Angelina Jolie?)

    Of course, to people who make their judgments according to personality-driven TV news and blogs, a personal connection is an argument. This, also, is appalling.

  7. Brad Warthen

    FYI, I posted that response to Tom before I read, and approved, the comments above from the rest of y’all. I woudn’t have said anything different if I HAD read them, but I just wanted y’all to know I wasn’t just ignoring you.

    Speaking of new comments, there’s an interesting one from "Boyd" over on this thread.

    Back to this subject … bud, to the extent that "the American people" are only leaving us those two options, the American people are WRONG, just as they were wrong to want to invade Iraq for the wrong reasons. Of course, they had no way to know at the time that it was for the wrong reasons. But they do have the opportunity to know better this time, and I intend to keep pointing it out.

  8. Silence Dogood

    “But we should not allow individual atrocities to obscure the larger picture.”
    Actually in this case perhaps we should not let indivdiual local accomplishments obscure the larger picture. We never had an idea of what winning would be in Iraq, we still don’t know what winning is other than “stay the course” now “stay the surge,” and our defined goals for Iraq continue to change as time moves foward. Most of the civil war in Iraq still is incorrectly attributed to Al Queda. We keep swatting at this hornets nest think that the bees will stay there. The only real credible argument for staying in Iraq at this point is we owe it to the people of Iraq to fix what has turned into one our great nation’s most mismanaged, uniformed military and foreign policy fiascos of all time. There is nothing for us to win in Iraq. If we now look bak can see how foolish the fallin dominos theory of nation’s falling to communism was in the Vietnam era, how much more foolish the ill concieved and imprudent Bush strategy of effectively “standing up the dominos” in the Mid-East that if we forcefully impose Western Democracy on one nation (all be it as long as the vote in anyone we wish) then soon the democracies would spring up! Whoopie! Some insight into world history, political system, Middle Easter culture, religion and society, as well as foreign policy would have been fantastic things to consider before and during this boondoggle. Bush’s failed foreign policy is like asking a doctor to do the work of an attorney for vice versa.

  9. bud

    A new campaign has just begun, it is already yielding important results, and its effects are increasing daily.
    -Excerpt from Brad’s excerpt
    This should be a great big red flag to anyone who feels inclined to continue listening to the pro-war folks. The so-called “surge” began in February. The whole sordid Iraq war began more than 4 years ago. Truthfully this surge is nothing all that new. We’ve had surges before, troop increases before, tactical changes before. To suggest this is new flys in the face of any reasonable reading of the facts. The “surge” is just warmed over “stay the course”. And the American public is not buying it.

  10. bill

    “Society exists only as a mental concept;in the real world there are only individuals.”
    Oscar Wilde

  11. Wally Altman

    Brad, I suspect that most of my fellow commenters wish that we could succeed in Iraq. If I thought there was a chance we could, I would be in favor of troops remaining there. But President Bush et al. have demonstrated over and over again over the past four years that they are not competent to prosecute this war, and they are in charge for another year and a half. It’s not enough for the American public to give the war in Iraq a chance; the Bush Administration also has to get it right. After four years of stinking it up, why do you still believe they are capable of getting it right?

  12. Brandon

    Here’s the thing: I don’t know, 100%, if it’s working or not. Certainly if it is working someone should tell the GOP senators currently looking to get out.
    But even if it IS working — and I’ll admit the DoD is functioning better than it did this time last year — this should have been done YEARS ago! The first signs of trouble were in Oct. 2003 when America lost the first helicopters. Ok fine, trust in the Rumsfeld plan… March 2004 hits and the insurgency comes into its own and Fallujah first flares up… Bush trusts in Rumsfeld even though Iraq’s just gotten worse…the election gets underway, and the seige of Fallujah hits, and still the President doesn’t make changes… 2005, a whole year, goes by, more deaths, no reaction by the Bush administration, Rumsfeld stays… 2006 gets underway, the Samarra mosque is bombed and still Rumsfeld stays…
    It’s only until, by the PResident’s own admission, Oct. 2006, when he even finally considers doing something different. He could have lost WWII in such a time frame thanks to his stubborn support for a failed strategy. And we can’t even be sure, had the Republicans fared a little better in the midterm elections, if he’d have even changed course THEN.
    If you really want the surge to continue, why not propose getting rid of the President and the Vice President for thier incompotent and unprofessional civilian leadership in exchange? Because if the President dragging his heels on even implementing the surge strategy is any indication, victory in Iraq and Bush’s presidency are mutually exclusive concepts.

  13. bud

    Wally, I don’t think it’s really a matter of getting it right. Certainly that’s not the case now. The problem is that this is the wrong war at the wrong time. Katrina showed how utterly incompetent the Bush administration is. That’s pretty clear now. But even with a competent, well executed plan I believe Iraq was bound to fail.

  14. Brad Warthen

    Yes, Brandon, absolutely — this should have been done years ago, as John McCain kept saying.

    And as I keep saying, this is NOT ABOUT BUSH! He’s the guy who stood in the way until the start of this year. This is about Gen. Petraeus, and the troops under him, and the fine job that they are doing.

    It’s not about Bush. It is NOT about Bush. This is a hell of a lot more important than George W. Bush! I truly believe we could solve our problems in Iraq if only every single person in this country — in the world — would realize it’s not about Bush. Iraq is more important than that!

    But we can’t quite accomplish that, because there are umpteen 24-hour news channels people with blow-dried morons who cannot even say the words, "What do you think we should do in Iraq?" Instead, it’s "Do you support the president? Have you decided to oppose the president on this? How long can the president rely upon the loyalty of GOP members…. yadda, yadda."

    Forget about George W. Bush! This is too important!

    I’m starting to feel like Howard Hughes here … "Show me all the blueprints. Show me all the blueprints. Show me all the
    blueprints… show me all the blueprints… show me all the
    blueprints… show me all the blueprints… It’s not about Bush … it’s not about Bush…"

  15. Doug Ross

    Couple tidbits from Andrew Sullivan’s blog:
    “Is it not incumbent on the Wall Street Journal when featuring one Kimberly Kagan’s review of the “surge” to inform its readers that one Kimberly Kagan was on the think-tank team that constructed the idea of said “surge”?”
    And a quote from Camile Paglia:
    You speak of my party wanting to “choose defeat,” while yours wants “victory.” Is that stark opposition truly our only choice? Or has your party painted itself into a rhetorical corner with its polarized talk of victory and defeat? Isn’t it possible that you have created a nightmare of words from which we cannot wake up? I don’t regard the prudent preservation of American lives and treasure as a “defeat” but rather as a sensible acknowledgment of the reality principle. Not all of our desires, hopes, and ideals can come to pass. That is the human condition.
    You say that if we don’t stay and win in Iraq, we’ll be back there in 10 years. I think you might well be correct. The Iraq chaos, which we instrumentally helped foment, will probably spread and destabilize the entire Middle East — a momentum that has already begun. By removing that despicable autocrat, Saddam Hussein, we conveniently did Iran’s work. There’s no stopping the jockeying of power now — Iran eyeing Iraq’s Shiite territories; Turkey ready to smash the independence movement among Kurds (who have been playing the United States for a fool).
    But next time around, we will hopefully have the support of other powers in the region, such as Saudi Arabia (a corruption-riddled regime with strong Bush ties), which can’t afford the implosion of Iraq. Meanwhile, the massacre of our hapless soldiers, along with the waste of billions of our tax dollars, must stop. There is no clear way to define “victory” in this folly — which tried to jump-start Western democracy in a country with none of our long traditions of civil law or free speech.

  16. Brad Warthen

    Well, Camile Paglia — that settles it, right? Who could know better than the author of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (oh, that kinky Emily, with her death fetish)?

    And here’s the clincher — she doesn’t seem to be married to anyone inconvenient. That’s the ultimate argument. That makes her THE expert. I mean, this woman did a commentary track on the DVD of "Basic Instinct." Could that Kimberly Kagan have done THAT? I don’t think so. I mean, we all know that a thorough grounding in sexually ambiguous figures in art is essential to understanding where the Shi’a mullahs are coming from.

    Why on Earth would I have paid attention to a silly little woman who has a husband she agrees with? How absurd! What was I thinking? Why would I have placed such value on a) the fact that she follows what’s going on over there for a living, and b) she says things that make sense? What is that compared to Vamps and Tramps, which absolutely nailed the whole Mideast situation?

    Good night, folks.

  17. Brad Warthen

    It gets worse the more you look into it. You realize that Kagan guy has a whole family that agrees with him? How droll. How hopelessly bourgeois.

    I’ll bet Camille, the anti-academic satirist’s dream girl, the self-described "feminist bisexual egomaniac," doesn’t have that problem. But you know, I do have one beef with her: What kind of person lists, as her Top Ten favorite movie quotes, a bunch of lines that she obviously picked because she likes to sneer at them? I certainly hope she read Ms. Kagan’s (or should we say, Mrs. Kagan’s) WSJ piece today. She could have sneered her way to Nirvana and back.

  18. Doug Ross

    The person you quoted as an expert on the success of the surge was paid to come up with the strategy. What’s she going to say now?
    “Yeah, it was a dumb idea.” For someone who decries partisans, can’t you find a source who isn’t on the take?
    Ms. Kagan’s brother is the editor of the Weekly Standard (a partisan conservative mag), her father in law a neocon intellectual (oxymoron?). She knows what to say to make sure Thanksgiving dinner is not stressful.
    Anyway, Paglia would eat you for breakfast in any debate on Iraq. Your selective culling of her resume to focus on the “lurid” parts leaves out her being a college valedictorian with a masters in Philosophy from Yale and named one of the world’s top 100 intellectuals by UK Prospect magazine. Other than that, she’s just some random bisexual chick.

  19. kc

    I’m not a Paglia fan myself, but I think she makes a good point in that quote (though it’s not clear where her quote ends and Mr. Ross’s comment resumes).
    So what do you think about her remarks, Mr. W? Any thoughts? Or would you rather talk about her sexuality some more? She can’t get married, now that’s a laugh riot! Hahaha!
    Incidentally, I’ll bet Andrew Sullivan doesn’t have that problem either. Not sure what your point is with all that.

  20. Doug Ross

    Meanwhile, as George Bush has focused on trying to turn Iraq into America Lite, he seems to have dropped the ball on a little organization called Al Queda:
    From AP:
    The conclusion suggests that the network that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.
    Whatever happened to that Bin Laden guy, anyway? Did I miss when we captured him?

  21. Doug Ross

    Here’s the Kagan family’s pet project:
    Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is an American neoconservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., co-founded as “a non-profit educational organization” by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in early 1997. The PNAC’s stated goal is “to promote American global leadership.”[1] Fundamental to the PNAC are the view that “American leadership is both good for America and good for the world” and support for “a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.”[2] It has exerted strong influence on high-level U.S. government officials in the administration of U.S President George W. Bush and strongly affected the Bush administration’s development of military and foreign policies, especially involving national security.
    Hmmmm… a non-profit think tank. Who has jobs like that? Would they be people who would fall into the category of partisans? stubborn intellectuals with a monetary interest in promoting a particular military strategy?

  22. Steve Gordy

    Brad, you missed one of the larger issues (and whether to stay in Iraq or leave is a pretty big issue in its own right): The extent to which the Bush Administration has subcontracted out policy-making to conservative think tanks, most of which are filled with people who are A) extremely bright and B) extremely ignorant of anything involving firsthand knowledge of or experience with military affairs or foreign policy. The evidence is overwhelming: From the hiring of Bush campaign staffers for the occupation authority in 2003 to the reliance on folks like Kimberly Kagan to make the administration’s case. When your ideas are bankrupt, spin ’em so they sound plausible.

  23. bud

    Statistically speaking the surge appears at first blush to have made things a bit safer in Iraq than it was in the January and February of 2007. The problem is the basis for this comparison was the bloodiest period for the entire conflict. Without any intervention whatsover the numbers were bound to come down. (In statistics this is called regression to the mean). A more relevant comparison would be to look at the same months in 2007 compared to 2006. After all, we’ve been there for 4+ years, shouldn’t we be making the place safer in the long run? Here are the number of Iraqi civilians killed for each month 2007 v 2006:
    2007 2006
    Jan 1802 779
    Feb 3014 846
    Mar 2977 1092
    Apr 1821 1009
    May 1980 1119
    Jun 1345 870
    Jul 641(1656)1280
    The 2007 number for July in parenthesis is the projected number for the entire month at the rate established for the first 12 days.
    As you can see each month in 2007 is substantially worse than for 2006. The apparent slackening in June appears to be a temporary phenomenon and could be attributable to the dynamics of June rather than any intervention by the U.S. military. After all, the June 2006 number was also low.
    The bottom line is clear. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians continue to die each month. American soldier deaths are at record levels. The ‘surge’ has done little to curb the sectarian violence even though it has been ongoing for 5 months now. An accurate reading of the statistics establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that our continued occupation of Iraq is only fueling the violence.

  24. bud

    And of course we have this:
    Now that cocky claim has come back to haunt Bush and the Republicans. The Associated Press has reported that U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaeda has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since 9/11.
    Still think we’re making progress in Iraq Brad? If not I can find more to refute that ridiculous claim.

  25. Brad Warthen

    Thanks, bud. That’s what I’m looking for — arguments based upon observations of facts.

    Folks, I’m sorry that you misunderstand my point, which I thought I had laid on thick enough for a blind man to see. But let’s take a more prosaic approach:

    • I don’t care about Camille Paglia. I don’t care about Kimberly Kagan. I was satirizing the fact that other people seem to care deeply about who somebody is.
    • I don’t care that CIA sent Valerie Plame’s husband to collect intel in Niger. He was a guy who had local contacts, therefore it made him a logical source. I don’t care who Kimberly Kagan is married to, or who his brother and father are. I care about whether the arguments seem well-informed and logical.
    • Do you realize how much of my time is spent listening to people who are paid to make the arguments they make? They can provide useful perspective; they can also provide unadulterated BS. The key is to assess the information and the argument, not decide whether you’re going listen or not based on who the person is.
    • When I look at the Paglia excerpt Doug provided, the very first words impeach the speaker: "You speak of my party wanting to ‘choose defeat,’ while yours wants ‘victory.’ Is that stark opposition truly our only choice? Or has your
      party painted itself…," etc. "My party." "Your party." This is someone who thinks in such terms, and I have a low opinion of that. It’s a private pet peeve with which I thought readers of this blog were well familiar. I have an extremely low opinion of people deciding what they think about such critical things as war and peace on the basis of what the "team" position is. Such intellectual processes are beneath contempt. (Why do you think commenters, from both sides, who really want to get my goat call me "partisan?" They know my attitude.)
    • I also think it’s ludicrous to make a big deal of a person’s family connections. It’s good to know them, which is why I thanked Tom for looking it up and pointing it out. But that does not disqualify a person from being informed or having a valid argument. You assess that by assessing the information and the arguments themselves.
    • In light of that, it struck me as amusing that Camille Paglia has worked so hard at defining herself as a person who would not be tied to someone in the way that Ms. Kagan is tied to her husband — the crime for which my interlocutors seemed to be indicting her and her opinions. This is the way SHE (Ms. Paglia) defines herself, not the way I do. I enjoyed the irony — you can’t accuse her of being the "little woman" enslaved to some man’s ideas, can you? — so I riffed on it.

    To me, the point was so obvious that it was funny. I’m sorry the rest of you didn’t think so.

    And Doug — I’m sure she would "eat my lunch" or whatever on Iraq, particularly if the contest were judged on the basis of an applause meter. Ms. Paglia knows how to express her opinions in partisan terms, in ways that evoke a warm, empathetic response from one side of the Kulturkampf. I don’t have that. I absolutely refuse to have that. I reject such approaches with all my being. I have no applause lines. I don’t want either side to win the political wars in Washington.

    I just want the United States to succeed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran and on every other front in this war. And by the way, we are NOT going to succeed in capturing bin Laden or other such significant mileposts in this war (and they would only be mileposts, not the destination) as long as we continue to respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan, which we will do as long as we feel politically and diplomatically constrained to do so. That  point was made on NPR this morning, I believe, and it’s a grim fact.

    But as long as we’re having this vicious internecine fight on the home front about having invaded Iraq and whether to follow through, what is the likelihood we’ll ever have the will or flexibility to do something like that?

  26. bud

    I find it a bit ironic that Brad makes a big issue out of rejecting partisan comments in favor of pursuading with facts. Yet I cannot find anything in Ms. Kagan’s article that points to any hard facts. Her entire article comes across as pure partisan wishful thinking spin. Take this for example:
    “.. militia-backed mortar teams firing on the Green Zone have been destroyed.”
    Yet in recent days there have been new reports of just such attacks:
    “July 10, 2007 Insurgents unleashed their most intense mortar attack to date on the Green Zone on Tuesday, killing 3 people and wounding 18, according to a statement from the American Embassy. [A]ccording to one American official in the Green Zone who spoke on condition of anonymity, the attack may have involved as many as 31 mortar shells.”
    Brad I would say to you that Ms. Kagan’s article represents exactly the type of partisan spin that you so decry. She’s simply making claims that have no basis in fact, none. Iraq is a very hostile place and Kimberly Kagan has a huge incentive to spin reality in a different direction. To ignore her pedigree ignores her motivation.

  27. Brad Warthen

    Sorry, bud, I disagree. More mortar attacks do not mean that mortars firing on the Green Zone have not been destroyed. Having an enemy shoot at you doesn’t mean you haven’t killed enemies. If terrorists succeed in attacking the U.S. again, it does not mean we have not stopped other attacks or disrupted much of the network. This is particularly true in this sort of non-Clausewitzian type of warfare. Enemies keep popping up as long as conditions that produce them exist.
    Ms. Kagan studies this for a living (which you and I don’t do), and she made these observations from visiting Iraq. That doesn’t mean she’s right, but it means what she has to offer is probably more credible than observations you or I or Ms. Paglia may offer. It doesn’t necessarily mean that — often a man on the front lines has the LEAST idea of how the battle is going overall. Each soldier’s battle is different, and so is the perception of each close observer. But such a perspective at least commands my respect enough to examine what she’s saying, and to me what she’s saying sounds like truth. It doesn’t sound that way to you. That’s where we are with this.

  28. Doug Ross

    You obviously haven’t read enough of Paglia’s writings over the years to understand she cannot be labeled politically. That one excerpt came from the following:
    which was in response to a letter in which the writer used the “your party/my party” designation.
    To claim she goes for applause lines just shows how little you know of her work.
    Here’s her comment on Bush/Gore 2000 from the same link:
    I agree with you that the Republicans did not “steal” the 2000 presidential election from Al Gore, and that history will indeed show that the Florida controversy was preplanned and fomented by a cadre of Democratic partisans, above all that braying ass, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida. It has always baffled me why Republicans failed to take a more aggressive stance toward rampant voting irregularities in big-city Democratic wards from coast to coast. That stuff has been par for the course for ages: We all know that John F. Kennedy (whom I campaigned for as an adolescent) won the White House by a slim margin thanks to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s hanky-panky in Chicago.

    Try and take your focus away from the bisexual label… you might learn something.

  29. Tom Robinson

    Brad, you’ve certainly spent a lot of time explaining how Ms. Kagan’s association with the “surge” plan (unacknowledged in her article) isn’t important.
    Have you ever heard of the widely cited, informal rule of debate:
    “When you’re explaining, you’re losing”?

  30. Silence Dogood

    “It is not about Bush”
    Brad my opposition to the mismanagment of the war it not necessarily or even partially some sort of inability to get over my dislike of the President’s policy. Consider, if you had a stock broker who mismanaged your money year after year after year and did such so badly that he lost a huge percentage of your funds each year and kept coming back and saying “This is our break through year” you might start to say “Thanks but no thanks” and while the point of investments is usually to make money and “It’s not about the stock broker,” at some point it is. Furthermore, the troops have excuted this mission honorably and heroicly – That is there job and they have done it. Choosing the mission and one giving them a goal they can accomplish and not some philisophical paradox like ‘imposing democracy by force’ is Bush’s job at which he has failed miserably and rightly lost the support of the majority of the public. This has not happened because we are bunch of un-patriotic duds who can’t read and comprehend multiple news sources or because we think terrorits (an extremely broad amorphous term mind you) are a group of really nice people who want to bring into the country and offer welfare too. His failed leadership and proven inablity to prosecute this war or choose a definable goal for our friends and relatives who are fighting over there is the issue and unfortunately that includes “Bush.” I am no “Bush basher” by the way, I don’t care about mispoken words, syntax slip ups, or anything of that ilk, I give him this indignation over things for which he rightfully deserves to be taken to task and are clearly inextricably intertwined with the conflict in Iraq.

  31. Brad Warthen

    Trying to catch up here:
    First, sorry if this is confusing, but I just approved the above few comments all at once, starting with my comment from hours ago that starts with, “Sorry, bud, I disagree…”
    Yes, under this system my own comments don’t post until I approve them, either. At least it puts us in the same boat in terms of timeliness, because I’ve been so busy today I forgot my own comment, as well as y’all’s.
    Now, reading from that point down…
    Doug, thanks for the perspective on Paglia. Maybe I can read that this weekend. Sound like maybe I like Bush less than she does. We’ll see. Anyway, the operative word in her self-description, for me, is “egomaniac.” But, yeah, I DID think the “bisexual” thing was relevant in the context of the discussion of Ms. Kagan’s marital arrangement. As I said, I guess Ms. Paglia is safe from such criticism. That was my only point about that.
    Tom, I’ve been losing for years on this — just as I’ve been losing on explaining my positions on immigration, government restructuring, the essential importance of public education, the cigarette tax, Home Rule, the Confederate flag… Why don’t I quit, you might wonder? Well, I DO manage to communicate what I’m saying to a lot of people on these things. The problem is that I haven’t been able to persuade enough of the RIGHT people. On some of those things, I have to persuade lawmakers who do not see such changes as being in THEIR interests. In the case of immigration, and the war, I’m debating across cognitive divides in our society that prevent us from communicating with people who disagree. I would fight THAT regardless of my positions on these individual issues, because these partisan/ideological/cultural divides are profoundly destructive to our society. Of course, a lot of people disagree with me about THAT, too. It’s quixotic, but compulsive. Now I realize it sounds pretty egocentric to count impasses on immigration, the war, the flag, etc., as PERSONAL defeats for me. To be sure, lots of other people agree with me on, say, raising the cigarette tax. But I think everybody should see it as a personal responsibility to do all they can to bridge these divides, and to grow in the process of the debate. It’s a duty we have as citizens. I get paid for it, of course, but I don’t get paid any more or less according to whether my arguments are successful. To the extent I care about that, it’s personal.
    Mr. Dogood, I like your stock broker analogy. But part of the reason I like it is that I think it works so well for MY position. If I’m investing in a stock I believe in in the long, I’m still going to want to invest in it — whether I change brokers or not. My perception of the potential of the stock won’t change according to who’s collecting the brokerage fee.
    This feels kind of like playing chess with several people at once…

  32. Silence Dogood

    Brad, I appreciate your extension of the metaphor on stock but brokers are harder to switch than Presidents so you “prosecute and inept foreign policy with the President you have” so to speak. The more important part might be the fact that our definiable goal has never been really elucidated to the American people – if winning only means not leaving, then not going in the first place would indeed have been the best idea. Everytime some one asks Rep. Wilson, Sen. DeMint or any of the rest of the S.C. delegation what victory would look like in Iraq the answer usually devolves and takes an abrupt about face to “staying the course” or not “cutting and running.”
    I appreciate you continue to post about this VERY important subject, and frankly you have beaten Senator DeMint by a mile who apparently believes that “even debating this before Sept. 15 is irresponsible.” Considering it is probably the most important issue on their plate up at the Senate right now and there job it to be a thoughtful deliberative body, I would have to demur and saying rather than irresponsible it is doing their job. The American troops are not demoralized by thoughtful debate over this issue – I am sure many commentors are or used to be the American troops and therefore are smart enough to understand the excercise of the freedoms they are fighting for.
    I mightily appreciate your chess analogy.

  33. Tom Robinson

    Brad, let me try to help you. You say that you have been losing the debate for years. Let me try to explore some of the reasons why that might be happening.
    I think you give your readers too little credit. You seem to want to cast disagreement with you into some kind of partisan framework, in which partisan fervor keeps people who disagree with you from listening to you. I don’t think you’re understanding the situation correctly. It isn’t that we don’t understand your point of view, we do. It’s that we don’t agree with it.
    We have reviewed the situation and drawn our conclusions. It’s presumptuous of you to insinuate that our opposition to the war is based on partisanship or on opposition to Bush; by doing so you are suggesting that we aren’t thinking the situation through, that we are blinded by emotion.
    We’re not. We see what has happened, we see what is happening, we listen to the arguments of the war supporters, and we draw our conclusions. It’s got nothing to do with opposition to Bush – a growing understanding of the folly of continuing the war has given rise to the increasing opposition to Bush, not the other way round.
    You seem to be believe that if we would only listen to you with an open mind, we would be convinced by your wisdom. Let me assure you that we have listened to you with an open mind.
    Now, let me list some of the reasons people might disagree with you, and ask you two related questions.
    People might disagree with you because:
    They don’t understand what you are saying.
    They only listen to their fellow partisans, and are unwilling to consider any viewpoint that comes from outside the partisan sphere in which they operate.
    They are blinded by dislike of real or imagined deficiencies of President Bush, and are thus unable to look at the present situation with a clear view.
    They are so incensed by the failures and mistakes that led to the war, and that have led to this point in the war, that they cannot clearly see the choices that lie before us.
    Now, I want to ask you a couple of questions, and please consider and answer them carefully.
    Are there any other possible reasons why people might disagree with your view of the war?
    What might those reasons be?
    Now, you have explained and explained and explained why the fact that Ms. Kagan presented an evaluation of a project in which she participated, and of which her husband was the principal architect – thereby essentially casting herself in the role of a student who judges her own Science Fair project – without telling her readers that she had done this, should not affect our evaluation of what she has to say. I accept this up to a point. If someone presents compelling facts and makes a compelling argument, their own personal characteristics do not vitiate their conclusion, even if those personal characteristics include an apparent faulty understanding of the requirements of ethical behavior. However, there need to be compelling facts, and there needs to be a compelling argument.
    You have spent a lot of time ridiculing the notion that there is anything untoward in a wife evaluating her husband’s work for the public, without informing the public that it is her husband’s work that she is evaluating. You even refer to Ambassador and Mrs. Wilson in this context. Perhaps you have information that I don’t – has there been any suggestion that Ms. Wilson has made any statements regarding the truth or falsity of her husband’s claims with respect to the results of his Niger mission?
    As I say, you ridicule the notion that there is anything untoward in a wife’s evaluation of her husband’s work, suggesting that it is the strength of the facts and arguments she marshals that should be considered. What you have unfortunately not done has been to explain to us why you find these particular arguments compelling, and, perhaps more to the point, why we should find them compelling.
    I don’t find them compelling. I understand that her views are in accordance with yours; nevertheless, I do not find her arguments persuasive.
    You spend a lot of time ridiculing Camille Paglia; I don’t understand the point of that. Personally, I have always felt her to be kind of a nut, but I don’t see what relevance that has in this context. The question is not whether she is a nut; the question is whether her argument is persuasive. I feel that it is; I feel that parts of it, in fact, are indisputable. Take this, for example:
    “Not all of our desires, hopes, and ideals can come to pass. That is the human condition.”
    That statement seems to me to resonate with truth, and the fact that I didn’t expect it to come out of Camille Paglia doesn’t matter.
    Now, later, in response to Bud, you point out that Ms. Kagan does foreign policy analysis for a living, suggesting, You point out that she has visited Iraq. You claim on this basis that Ms. Kagan’s views are thus entitled to a greater weight than those of the ordinary person. Now, this is a different line of argument from your earlier line of argument, which is that the strength or weakness of an argument is independent of who makes it. You are claiming that we should be inclined to accept Ms. Kagan’s views based on her status as some sort of expert.
    Not to be immodest, but didn’t my first comment demolish that line of argument? All Ms. Kagan is doing is telling us that her husband’s project is a success. Why should we defer to her supposed expertise? Now, her argument may be sound – you believe it is, I believe it isn’t – but by seeking to act as a judge of her own and her husband’s work, she has forfeited any claim to deference based on her status.
    If you can work from a presumption that people who disagree with you are coming at the problem in good faith, and are viewing it clearly and carefully, perhaps you will make more progress. Perhaps you will even achieve victory – however victory may be defined.

  34. Tom Robinson

    Ben, are you sure your stock analogy expresses the point you want to make? Would a more apt analogy be, suppose you bought a stock from an incompetent broker, the stock continues to lose value every year and to somehow drain your assets beyond even its own loss in value. The certificate bursts into flame and burns down your house, and when you rebuild the house the certificate bursts into flame again and burns down the new house. You seek to sell the stock, or dispose of it somehow, and people tell you, you should keep the stock, what matters is the future performance of the stock, not the broker that sold it to you or the past performance of the stock.

  35. bud

    Brad if you can’t understand my point about the mortar attacks on the Green Zone then you should just change your name to Partisan Brad. The whole point of Ms. Kagan’s article is that we are making progress in making Iraq more secure. Nobody dispute the fact that we are taking out enemy soldiers. For 4+ years we’ve been taking out enemy soldiers so the ONLY purpose for pointing out that mortar launching sites have been taken out is to buttress her claim. Repeat, the ONLY valid point in mentioning the mortars is to validate her claim. Otherwise, even if what she is saying proves true it is irrelevant.
    It is not necessary to dispute her claim as she states it. It is really not important if we’ve taken out mortar launching sites. With all the military assets we have in the region there is no doubt that enemy soldiers have been taken out. What IS important is whether this is helping make Iraq a more secure place. Since mortar fire is actually increasing into the Green Zone, the only relevant issue when it comes to mortars, we can only conclude that we have failed to make Iraq more secure by the example (mortar fire into the Green Zone) Ms. Kagan chose to use as a metric.

  36. Tom Robinson

    Hmmmm, interesting. I always knew my name wasn’t unique, but it’s interesting to find it in literature. I never read that book, but it’s one of my wife’s favorites. I lured her into the pet store one time, and wandered over to the birds, where there were various birds, including budgies, and, most notably for my purposes at the moment, finches. I pointed to a finch, and said, let’s buy that one. We’ll call it Atticus.
    As for the IP address, I don’t have an answer to that, not being particularly technically adept – not, in fact, understanding exactly what an IP address is. All I can say is that I usually use the same telephone number to dial in, but sometimes I do appear to be automatically switched to a different number.

  37. Brad Warthen

    Bud, you didn’t say mortar attacks were “increasing” before. If THAT’s your point, please cite your source, because I’d like to look at that.
    MY point was that if you say there’s no progress because there are mortar attacks, or there’s no progress because there are still suicide bombings, then you are setting a standard that means no matter how much better things get in the real world, we’re “failing” and must surrender. Imagine if you will that things got dramatically, miraculously better all of a sudden, and 99.999 percent of the people of Iraq were hugging each other and doing their best to build a peaceful, pluralistic Iraq. According to that standard that your previous message seemed to set, you could have two insurgents defeating us. They could lob mortars into the Green Zone on Mondays (each week from a different spot, of course) set up IEDs on Tuesdays, do a really big car bomb each Wednesday, etc.
    That way we have casualties on American TV every day, and the situation, in the minds of the American public, remains hopeless.
    Since such headlines are what most people react to, unless we accept that even under great conditions, some casualties are likely, then it will be impossible for the American public to stick with any kind of dangerous endeavor anywhere in the world at any time. Say, Somalia in 1993. We cannot afford to be that paralyzed as a nation. It’s too dangerous.
    You know, casualties continue in Afghanistan (and yes, I know part of that is that military resources are stretched, but that’s far from the only reason). If everyone weren’t fixated on Iraq, the public would be more cognizant of that. And by the standard I hear some people applying in Iraq — and if you’re not applying that standard, great — we should quit fighting the Taliban, too.
    Once again, if the argument is that mortar attacks are increasing, I’d like to know. While it doesn’t mean we’re failing (if you have a few more mortar attacks, but dramatically fewer sectarian executions, is that not a type of progress), it certainly undermines that point in the Kagan piece.

  38. bud

    July 7, 2007 Four consecutive explosions were heard by KUNA’s correspondent here [in green zone], likely to have been caused by mortar shells, and were followed by the wailing of sirens.
    Columns of thick black smoke were seen, apparently from a fire that had erupted at one of the locations.
    July 10, 2007 Insurgents unleashed their most intense mortar attack to date on the Green Zone on Tuesday, killing 3 people and wounding 18, according to a statement from the American Embassy. [A]ccording to one American official in the Green Zone who spoke on condition of anonymity, the attack may have involved as many as 31 mortar shells.
    This is based on a statement from the American Embassy.
    Frankly this isn’t even all that important to me. Whether the security issue is better, worse or the same we still should pull our forces out of Iraq.

  39. kc

    Not sure what Bud’s source is, but there’s plenty of news stories about this:
    From the Stars and Stripes yesterday:
    Mideast edition, Thursday, July 12, 2007
    A barrage of mortars and rockets that struck the Green Zone on Tuesday afternoon killed three people — including an American soldier — and wounded 18 others, according to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
    Around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the rounds began landing in the Green Zone, the heavily fortified center of government and military commands in Baghdad. The attacks were apparently launched from a Shiite district northeast of the area, and the barrage included between 20 and 30 mortar and Katyusha rocket rounds, American and Iraqi military officials said.
    Though mortar attacks have been a continuing threat since the war began, Tuesday’s incident is the latest in an increasing string of attacks against the Green Zone.

  40. bud

    Brad, the burden of proof is not on us who do not want to spend more American resources. You’ve asked me to provide additional information on the mortar issue. That’s not my job. The only thing I have to do is show that Ms. Kagan’s claim is insufficient. That I’ve clearly done. Prove to me that the mortar attacks have declined.

  41. Brad Warthen

    OK, thanks. That helps.
    But I wouldn’t have asked you to bother if I’d known you didn’t care whether security was getting better or not.
    Kind of makes the whole thread pointless from your point of view, I guess.
    Thanks, kc.

  42. Tom Robinson

    Brad, is that kind of tone really called for? I’m sure Bud is interested in whether or not the security situation is getting better; he longs for it to get better, as do we all.
    Bud is simply not convinced by Ms. Kagan’s assertion that the security situation is in fact getting better. To me, it does not appear that she has provided the sort of detailed, specific analysis that someone in her position would need to provide in order to be believed.
    Now, you seem to suggest that substantial numbers of Americans are evidently being misled by, or reacting inappropriately to, the news they see coming out of Iraq, which presents a falsely discouraging picture (or at least is interpreted as presenting a falsely discouraging picture) of what is in reality an improved and improving situation, and for this reason they disagree with your view of what should be done.
    Can you think of any other possible reason why someone might disagree with your view of what should be done?

  43. Brad Warthen

    I didn’t know I had a “tone.” To me, the whole discussion was about whether we maintain our commitment to Iraq. bud said “Frankly this isn’t even all that important to me. Whether the security issue is better, worse or the same we still should pull our forces out of Iraq.”
    In that case, what was the point of the discussion?
    bud, did you think I had a “tone?”
    You know what I was thinking that I didn’t write? That I started this blog to talk about South Carolina issues. I like to leaven that with other things, from the war to trivia. I like talking about the war, because I think there’s nothing more important. I think it’s good that we have long threads on the war. We should.
    But I feel kind of weird when we have a 40-comment plus thread on this post, then a total of four on the next 10 posts. Sort of makes me feel redundant, since there a millions of blogs where people can talk about this.
    That sounds too negative. I think it’s GOOD that people want to comment on my blog about this. But for every 40 on this subject (and mind you, you’ll have another opportunity Sunday, when my column goes up), how about at least a few on some other subjects?
    Yeah, I know this is just a dry spell, and when there’s something like the Tommy Moore news happening, people DO get into the other subjects. But since they haven’t in the last few days, this is on my mind. Then, when after 40 comments the guy who’s posted as many as anybody, and who has posted INFORMATIVE comments, and has in fact just made a really good point rebutting the original post, tells me the thing we’re discussing doesn’t make any difference to his thinking…
    I just think, dang. Why were we doing this again?
    Basically, I want to post stuff that interests y’all. And of course I know we can always get something lively going on the war. But that’s too easy. It always feels like I’m sort of cheating when I fall back on that, like an unimaginative way to attract attention.
    None of that may make sense to you, but it got me away from proofs for a little while. Back to them…

  44. Ready to Hurl

    Brad, be honest– at lease with yourself.
    Whether security in gets in Iraq gets measurably better by this September or September, 2027 won’t really impact your position.
    You want us to stay there for an unlimited duration of time, unlimited number of American casualties and unlimited expenditure of American tax dollars, right?
    If not, please explain when we can leave.
    Thank God that the American people have better sense than you.

  45. Brad Warthen

    Honest is one thing I am, and have been all along. As I do whenever someone says something like this, I point any newcomers to what I wrote when we went into Iraq:

    Copyright 2003 The State
    All Rights Reserved
    The State (Columbia, SC)
    MARCH 23, 2003 Sunday FINAL EDITION
    LENGTH: 966 words


    BYLINE: BRAD WARTHEN, Editorial Page Editor
    GEORGE W. BUSH has crossed his Rubicon, and he has taken us with him.

    Julius Caesar set world history on a new course when he took his
    legion into Italy in defiance of the Senate. President Bush has taken
    an equally irrevocable step by entering the Tigris and Euphrates basin
    to wage war in spite of U.N. objections.

    The United States has rightly set aside its existing security
    relationships in favor of a new strategy. No longer can Americans be
    complacent isolationists who only rise up when prodded, then go back to
    our pleasures. Now, we have set out as knights errant to slay dragons,
    before the dragons can slay us and others.

    This is one of those moments when everything changes.

    The United Nations’ future is in doubt, as is NATO’s. Some of our
    best friends in the world have turned out to be something else
    altogether, and we’re going to have to sort that out. Going into Iraq
    is likely to rattle the foundations of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iran
    and many others. It will change the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian
    standoff, cause North Korea to do who knows what, and freak out the
    Chinese more than that bomb on their Belgrade embassy did.

    In other words, it will create both problems and opportunities, as do all of history’s great turning points.

    This is all happening because the president has decided to use the
    military might of the most powerful nation in history to hunt down bad
    guys wherever they might be. It is a development that I welcome. With
    great power comes the responsibility to act.

    Like The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, I worry that the president
    may have fumbled efforts to get international support – support that is
    crucial to long-term success, even if we don’t need it for the actual
    fighting. I fret that the president has good instincts about what to do
    in Iraq, but doesn’t clearly see how to make his goals in that area
    mesh logically with other policies.

    But you know what? This is the guy we’ve got. And you know what
    else? He’s probably the only one stubborn enough to see this thing
    through. And that may be exactly what we need. We could maybe have had
    a more wonkish sort in the White House who was better able to
    articulate the big picture, but everyone I can think of who might fit
    that description would be far too likely to try to fight the war with
    one finger in the wind, ready to bolt at the first casualty or
    discouraging word.

    George W. Bush is different. Something happened to him right after
    Sept. 11. He realized how dangerous it is to neglect the world, to let
    dangerous situations fester, to pretend that we have threats
    "contained" when all they have to do is buy an airline ticket.

    Many others realized that, too. But most settled back into a routine
    after the main fighting in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush never settled back. He
    meant everything he said about the "long haul."

    Anti-war protesters are wrong about many things, but they are right
    about the one thing that seems to be eating at many of them the most:
    We probably would not have gone to war in Iraq if George W. Bush were
    not president. Bill Clinton wouldn’t have done it. Mr. Bush’s own
    father wouldn’t have (it wouldn’t be prudent). FDR couldn’t even pull
    it off; as badly as he wanted to help Britain fight Hitler, he had to
    wait for Pearl Harbor (after which Hitler proved his madness by
    declaring war on us) to proceed.

    George W. Bush doesn’t seem to care what this does to him
    politically, or to his place in history, or any of that usual stuff. He
    is going to see this thing through until the world is made safe from
    Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, the ayatollahs in Tehran and, yes, Osama
    bin Laden.

    That is a fact that both reassures me and makes me worried about the long term.

    The United States can’t back down now. To do so is to show the kind
    of faintheartedness that (among many other factors) led to 9/11/01.
    Osama bin Laden made certain calculations after we backed off from
    finishing Saddam the first time, and then skedaddled out of Somalia as
    soon as we suffered some casualties. He thought that all he had to do
    to defeat us was draw blood.

    "The long haul" means a lot longer than four years, and there’s no
    going back. So what happens if this uniquely determined president is
    replaced next year? While I might like some of the people lining up to
    run against him in many ways, I don’t think any of them is as
    single-minded about this course of action as is the current president.
    And they need to be. There will be times when the resolve of the man in
    the Oval Office is tested as severely as that of Abraham Lincoln in his
    darkest hours.

    And right now, Mr. Bush is the only one who’s enough of a cowboy to see it through.

    So is that an endorsement of the incumbent in 2004? No. Because we
    have to face the fact that the "long haul" is also longer than eight
    years, and at the end of that time, we will definitely have a new
    leader. Whether we change horses in 2004 or 2008, we’re still going to
    be in midstream. This Rubicon is wider than the one Caesar crossed.

    So what do we do about it? A lot of the burden falls on Mr. Bush
    himself. He needs to sell this war, both to the American people and to
    our sometime allies, with the same kind of relentlessness with which he
    has moved on Saddam.

    Sure, he has tried. He’s done speeches, and generally said the right
    things. But he needs to try harder. That’s because his strategy is not
    going to succeed unless there is a sufficiently strong consensus in
    this country to support it for many years to come.

    That consensus will determine who the next president will be. And
    whether Mr. Bush wants to think about it or not, there will be a next
    president at some point.

  46. Doug Ross

    Your lament over the lack of comments in other topics may simply be a reflection of the interests of your readership. There are only a few “hot button” issues that seem to provoke a response – Iraq, immigration, vouchers, taxes, education in general, the role of government. The comments on those topics generally show that your opinion does not reflect the opinion of the majority of people who choose to write on your blog. The balance of support for your opinion versus dissent seems to be heavily tilted in the opposing view. Read into that what you will (or won’t).
    As for topics like Tommy Moore selling out, I think the general response is “So? Is that news that a politician would use his office to further his own personal goals?” The payday lending aspect of it is a non-starter for the vast majority of people who read this blog or The State. I may be speaking in generalities, but my sense is that someone who is an frequent consumer of payday loans is not someone who is sitting around reading the blog of the opinion editor of The State.
    And to get back to your relative distaste for Mark Sanford, how do you reconcile your constant complaints about him being inflexible in his position on the role of government and yet call Lindsey Graham courageous for sticking to his position on amnesty for illegal immigrants despite significant negative response from his constituents? What’s the difference? Sanford should compromise and Graham should be given free reign?

  47. Tom Robinson

    “Now, we have set out as knights errant to slay dragons, before the dragons can slay us and others.”
    Interesting choice of metaphor.
    Oh, does anyone else like to listen to audiobooks? I particularly like Blair Brown as a reader, but I also very much enjoy a British reader named Frederick Davidson. A few years ago, I spent many happy hours listening to him read “Les Miserables,” and I am presently listening to his rendition of “Don Quixote”.

  48. bud

    Brad if you want to talk about something that interests people how about health care or energy. On Friday crude oil prices closed on the NY Mercantile exchange at just a couple pennies under $74/barrel. That’s close to the all time record set just after Katrina when all the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed. Yet there is really nothing of a one-time event that would cause this kind of price. What appears to be happening is more fundamental and very scary. It appears that world wide oil production may be peaking. Combined with extreme demand and we’re facing a crisis. It’s time to buy that 50 mpg hybrid before the price of gas goes to $4, $5 or even $6/gallon.

  49. Payday Loan Advocate

    Like many Americans who make up that growing class of “disillusioned” voters, I watched the latest “town hall”-style TV debate between Barack Obama and John McCain with my expectations held firmly in check. No matter how many direct questions you ask a politician, regardless of their party affiliation, the answers you receive will resemble generalized sound bites. The New York Times described it as “90 minutes of forced cordiality,” and I must agree. While the exchange was “mercifully free” of personal attacks (according to the Boston Globe), the result was that it was free of much of the tension that makes for compelling television. McCain continued to trumpet experience, his “stay the course” stance on Iraq (seriously, he could have been G.H. Bush’s understudy) and his oil drilling policies. Obama continued to criticize Republican policies that he claims have led America into its current recession. If all were based upon the candidates’ performance here, we’d have no idea exactly how either of them would work to avert pending economic catastrophe. A coherent economic proposal is what America needs. Obama’s stance on “predatory lending” – effectively sanctioning payday advance lenders – is not a coherent solution to the real economic problems we face. That’s just a juicy steak to feed the banking and credit union dogs.
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