May 30, 2007
The Times Goes Through Withdrawal
A few days ago, the New York Times and other elite news sources reported that the administration was developing "concepts" for reducing combat troops in Iraq in 2008, shifting our mission more towards training, support, and fighting al-Qaeda.
The media sees this as an admission of failure by President Bush; but those who have followed the administration's long-term strategy and goals see it as evidence we're finally on the right track:
The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course. ["Runs its course" is news-speak for "succeeds in driving the insurgency out of Baghdad."]
The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.
The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad [Because we will have driven the insurgency out of Baghdad!].
The NYT portrays the president as desperate to create a positive legacy, thus caving to the incessant, compulsive attempts by the Democrats to put a time limit on the war. Even though they lost and Bush won, the elites imagine it's inevitable that, in the end, Bush must yield to the "pressure."
In this sense, they confuse him with their own past and former president, Bill Clinton -- who did indeed obsess over how much the people loved him.
But this president has never seemed overly interested in either popularity or legacy; if he were, he would have withdrawn from Iraq right after Saddam Hussein's government fell, or perhaps right after Saddam himself was captured, when voters still supported the war by heavy margins. Instead, Bush has stuck it out for years; the only viable explanation is that -- brace yourselves -- he actually believes what he says and says what he believes: Defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq is vital to the security of the United States; and American national security is more important to George W. Bush than any transient support in poll or history text.
The Times seems not to realize that their own reporting belies the "story" they want to tell; for in the next breath, after telling us that the Bush administration is looking for an exit strategy, they're forced to report the complete opposite:
Still, there is no indication that Mr. Bush is preparing to call an early end to the current troop increase, and one reason officials are talking about their long-range strategy may be to blunt pressure from members of Congress, including some Republicans, who are pushing for a more rapid troop reduction.
Absurdities multiply; the paper portrays the withdrawal strategy -- which they have just denied comes from the president -- as a turf war beteen the Pentagon and the commanders in the field, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates (and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) joining the E-ring generals in calling for a troop drawdown; while the commanders in the field -- Gen. David Petraeus and his Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Commanding General of the multinational corps in Baghdad -- are "enthusiastic supporters" of the counterinsurgency strategy.
The simpler explanation is that the two groups are looking at different time periods: The Pentagon is considering long-term, after this phase has achieved its objectives; while of necessity, the commanders on the ground are looking at a much shorter period of time.
Underlying this entire Democratic-Party discussion, however (and driving it off the cliff), is a fundamental misunderstanding of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This core confusion permeates the Left like head lice, leaving reporters and Democratic officials scratching their noggins over "contradictions" that should be readily explicable -- if they but had the correct narrative in mind.
Let's start with the most obvious point... but one that eludes the brain trust in the elite media: The occupation of Iraq was never intended to be permanent.
But in late 2002-early 2003, the Left constructed a fantasy narrative, where our intention was to invade Iraq and steal its oil ("blood for oil"); this would of course require making it a permanent colony of Imperial America, like the English raj in India. That mindset explains much of the Democrats' confusion; here are the "facts," as the Left sees them:
- Since we haven't reduced Iraq to a shell and aren't loading supertankers with sweet Baghdad crude, that proves how incompetent Bush is: He can't even pull off simple highway robbery!
- Since any government we allow to exist in Iraq must necessarily be an American puppet, then whenever the Iraqis don't do what we demand, it's another Bush failure.
- And of course, if we're permanent occupiers, then any withdrawal of U.S. forces is -- you're way ahead of me -- a catastrophic retreat, admission of Bush's collapse, and a sign that the entire "adventure" was a dismal failure... like when Gandhi forced the British Empire to abandon India in disgrace and dishonor.
Under this "story of Iraq," the counterinsurgency strategy is really just a small "surge" of a few more troops into Baghdad. If we weren't able to subjugate five million Iraqis with 120,000 troops, why would 140,000 do the trick? Clearly, the Bush push is a spent reed, and we should stop throwing good money after bad. We've learned a hard lesson; we should accept it and go home, tails between our legs, resolving never to play "empire" again.
Yet neither Bush nor his administration acts like one would expect a disgraced and dishonored "failure" to act. So the Democrats are infuriated at his "arrogance" and "denial," like a chess player who refuses to acknowledge checkmate and congratulate the victor.
The disconnect is that one party is playing chess, while the other is playing poker: "What do you mean you picked up the pot? I just put your king of hearts in check!"
The administration is likewise befuddled. From their perspective, we were successful in the original invasion; we captured Hussein and dismantled the Baathist hegemony; and we did a lot of rebuilding.
Then there was a long dark period, during which we were fighting the wrong strategy -- a war of attrition -- and just spinning our wheels. But about six months ago, the Commander in Chief realized the error, got rid of the old generals and the old Secretary of Defense, brought in new leadership, and now we're heading in the right direction again.
Why on earth would we pull out now, when we've finally righted our course? It's completely bonkers!
Look, suppose Bush actually means what he says. Then here are the facts as the president sees them:
- Since we haven't stolen Iraq's oil, that proves America is not the thief of Baghdad;
- The rejection by the Iraqi government of many American requests proves that the government is actually independent, hence we kept our word;
- And of course, since our entire strategy is to stand up the Iraqi security forces precisely so that we can stand down our own, withrawal of some American forces indicates that we believe our long-term strategy -- to establish a sustainable democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East -- is working.
No wonder Bush doesn't act like a loser!
Alas, the administration's notorious inability to get its own propaganda out to the American people practically guarantees that the Democrats succeed in persuading to their point of view a very large chunk of the civitas. Americans might be willing to accept an American Empire -- a quasi-empire, as during the Cold War -- but they won't accept a failed empire that can't even hold onto its colonies!
If I'm right, then the most effective path to restore faith in the Iraq war, the presidency, and the party is to persuade the American people that the Democrats' narrative, their "story of Iraq," was wrong from the very beginning.
If one simply takes the administration at its word about our intentions and long-term goals in this war, then in fact, we're doing quite well in Iraq. It only looks bad because the Left swore we were going to veer hard-right, but we went straight instead. The passengers thought we'd lost control of the vehicle, when in fact that was the intended route all along.
But this won't be easy... and clearly, it cannot be done by Bush himself, both due to his natural inability to communicate (he's the Great Obfuscator) and also because he's already lost the confidence of the American people. Their confidence can only be restored if another person does it for the president... one or more of the 2008 candidates, for example.
We need to get the American people to abandon the false "story of Iraq" they were fed by the Democrats and instead embrace the correct one. Then and only then can we ask for their patience... as they will finally see that we're actually on track once again, after a long detour into the incorrect strategy.
The president's party is going to need help spreading the word -- which means they must find sympathetic or at least open-minded journalists in the elite media who will actually tell the correct story (perhaps in exchange for a level of access unprecedented in this secretive administration), rather than the fictional narrative of the Democrats. And to get the word out, we must rely more on "new media" than the administration ever has in the past.
It's much more important to give long interviews, tough questions and all, to Brit Hume, Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Sean Hannity -- and especially to skeptics who are at least willing to listen, like Tammy Bruce and Bill Handel -- than to give another useless presser to the White House press corps or an exclusive interview to Mike Wallace.
I think Bush should also ask cabinet members to write guest posts for major center-right blogs like InstaPundit, Power Line, Captain's Quarters, Hugh Hewitt, and several mil-blogs. (We'll never reach anyone on Pandagon or Firedoglake, so it's a waste of time and effort better spent elsewhere.) The only way to turn the fallacious story around is to tell the correct story, honestly, warts and all, over and over -- and then over again.
That's what we try to do at Big Lizards: Make up for the president's communications disability as well as we can.
But we center-right bloggers have our own responsibility: We must always remember who we're dealing with whenever we read an anti-Bush, anti-GOP narrative in the MSM... and never take them at face value.
If we ever want to regain power, that is. If we're starting to like living in the permanent minority, then let's just keep on keeping on; we're doing great.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 6:00 AM
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The following hissed in response by: phil g
Great post...I'm just about down to reading only this blog as I'm sick of the conservative whining and demands for 'conservative perfection' whatever that means (based on whomever is doing the whining). Now if the Bush admin could just start getting the message out...
The following hissed in response by: charlotte
Excellent advice for the Bush admin and for those of us who care, Dafydd, re delivering and staying on message. The truth with an emphasis on our honorable and pragmatic goals relayed by the right people in effective venues and written and spoken repeatedly might actually make some headway against those who would massage and spin a counter oppo message via hyperbole, invective and fiction.
You are the Tony Snow of the 'sphere, w/o his unfortunate health probs, we hope.
The following hissed in response by: exDemo
Iraqi pacification is proceeding, in spite of the NYT. Fifteen of the eighteen provinces in Iraq are safer than the Streets of New York outside the doors of the Grim Gray lady. Its like looking at a map of Europe showing the Nazi regime originally encompassing all of Europe and most of Russia in 1941, shrunk to barely any territory outside of Germany and the opposition crowing that we can't possibly win so we should quit in the elections in the fall of of 1944.
Only three provinces, Anbar, Baghdad City province and Diyalla are colored red and in upset. all the others are pacified and white on the map. You can't even call it a war. There are only gangs of killers, killing unarmed civilians just like on the streets of NYC and London and Madrid. The opposition has no army. They couldn't beat the Brit or us, and had ZERO hope of overthrowing our government by force on 9/11. Neither do the loons in Iraq.
Anbar's provincial politicians and citizens are fed up, and are turning on and killing the AQI, or finking on them. Anbar was dark red, is now pink, soon be pink turning white. Baghdad City is a tougher situation to pacify as is any large city but it's better; even the phonies pretending to report the news, but never leaving the Green Zone have had to confirm that. the highway of No Return is now a figment. Baghdad city is now pink.
That leaves Diyalla, a mixed province of Shia and Sunni,still colored crimson red. Plans are bring made, though fro an offensive there. There is little safety for the terrorists there as too many natives would turn on them in an instant, if and when the Army and Police show up in numbers and stay there.
In short the war is well on the way to being "won" in the sense that the US can Declare Victory! and announce plans to withdraw some troops, with the full expectation that the Iraqi government can endure. Actually there is no opposition to overthrow it; the rag-tag band of foreign terrorists can disrupt and raise hell, but are no where near powerful enough to destroy the Iraqi regime. Recall that It took an invasion of several armored divisions for the VC to conquer Saigon even as they had regiments and battalions in the field for many years. AQI and Sadr have neither. Nary even a Battalion or Company. North Vietnam had the resources of the Entire RedBloc on which to draw, AQI has a personal fortune; and Sadr the crumbs provided by the overextended and underdeveloped country of Iran.
Having embraced defeat, the Democrats are in danger. Just like they did in 1864 before Atlanta and the Richmond Petersburg siege insured everyone that Grant, the Siege master, was doing it again as he had a Vicksburg. The Copperhead Democrats aree in danger of being hoist on their own petard.
The above hissed in response by: exDemo at May 30, 2007 7:17 PM
The following hissed in response by: Terry Gain
Great post exDemo. It looks like we are in a race to a finish line imposed by election schedules and the willingness of the Democrats to place partisan politics above national security.
The Democrats and the MSM have convinced a significant portion of the public (who would otherwise support the war) that U.S. troops are caught in the middle of a civil war. So long as this is the defining narrative there will not be enough support for the war to sustain operations into 2008.
It will be interesting to see if what Petraeus reports in September will change the narrative. In the meantime I expect the MSM to remain asleep about the Awakenings in Iraq- whether in Anbar or Diyala.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
If we're fighting a battle with the terrorists in Diyallah, then by definition, isn't that province also pink, not red?
Red means "enemy controlled territory," just as white means "friendly controlled territory." There are no red provinces in Iraq; there are barely a handful of red cities.
Iraq is mostly white with three pink swaths and a tiny sprinkle of red dots.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at May 31, 2007 5:10 AM
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